As I was being discharged from the hospital after giving birth, my nurse gave me a post-pregnancy package the size of a college textbook. She included all kinds of information, from how to treat my C-section scar to best positions for breastfeeding. But, out of everything I found in that folder, there was one piece of paperwork that I coveted: A pocket-sized "Know Your Breastfeeding Rights" brochure for New York. Having a list of my local and state laws available wherever I went made me feel empowered. Every parent should be armed with similar knowledge, so here's a list of breastfeeding laws every nursing mom should know.
Back in 2010, as part of the Affordable Care Act reform, the U.S. government implemented a new rule requiring reasonable break time for nursing employees, according to the Bump. The provision, known as "Break Time For Nursing Mothers," amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, mandating that businesses with 50 or more employees provide breastfeeding workers a reasonable place, other than a bathroom, to pump, and a reasonable amount of time to do so. So the first thing every breastfeeding parent should keep in mind is that your protections are really at the state level.
Every nursing parent is worried about whether or not they can breastfeed in public without being harassed or arrested for public indecency. Luckily, 49 states, plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that afford parents the right to breastfeed in any public or private location, according to National Conference of State Legislatures. Idaho is the only state to not pass such a law. Twenty-nine states, though, plus D.C., exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. Those states include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Other states have additional laws related to breastfeeding and public accommodations. In Louisiana, for example, state buildings have to have a suitable place available to parents who need to nurse or pump milk, according to the NCSL. In Mississippi, licensed child care facilities have to provide nursing parents with a reasonable space to breastfeed or pump that is not a bathroom, as well as provide refrigerator space to store milk.
In addition to the federal protections, 28 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have laws dictating breastfeeding rights in the workplace, according to the NCSL. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.) Most states have passed legislation similar to "Break Time For Nursing Mothers," but some have gone even further to include anti-discrimination provisions. In Hawaii and California, for example, it's illegal for employers to discriminate against a nursing parent, such as refusing to hire or firing a worker for breastfeeding.
California's law also bars discrimination in housing against breastfeeding parents under its Fair Employment And Housing Act. Louisiana also passed a law that prohibits child care facilities from discriminating against babies who are breastfed.
I haven't had to go on jury duty, but I could imagine the experience would be frustrating more so if you're a nursing parent. But breastfeeding parents in 17 states and Puerto Rico have the right to either be excused from jury duty or postpone service for at least a year, according to the NCSL. Those states are: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio is also considering similar legislation.
Breastfeeding is a natural act. Not all parents can or want to breastfeed their children, which is perfectly OK. But those who chose to should not have to hide or sit on nasty toilet seats in order to feed their kid. So the next time you're nursing at the mall or need to pump at work, make sure to pull out this list.
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