Breastfeeding in the Workplace

Women with infants and toddlers make up a large portion of today’s workforce. Forty percent of mothers return to work within three months of giving birth, and one-half return within six months. Unfortunately, only 51 percent of North Carolina mothers continue to breastfeed their babies after eight weeks.

Mothers say that returning to work is one of the main factors in their decision to breastfeed or not, or when to stop.

The federal Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth. This applies each time the employee has the need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate her for any work time spent for such purpose.

The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk. Employers with less than 50 employees must prove an undue hardship from complying with the law in order to be exempt from this law. They are not automatically exempted. These requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees.

For North Carolina State employees, the Office of State Personnel has a detailed lactation policy. This policy provides for designated space and paid break time for expressing breast milk for employees governed by the State Personnel Act.

The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) maintains a very helpful information page on workplace support for federal breastfeeding law including common Q&A’s.

The North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition has information on a variety of topics for parents and professionals