With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many breastfeeding mothers gained new resources to help them meet their goals, especially if they were returning to work. For World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are celebrating the efforts of moms who combine working and breastfeeding by highlighting some protections and services that are available.
Federal law requires that women who are hourly-waged employees who qualify for paid breaks and overtime must be provided accommodations by their employers to be able to pump breastmilk during their work-shift up to the baby’s first birthday. In particular, this is a space that is private, protected from interference and is not a bathroom, as well as sufficient time. The US Dept. of Labor has a great website that gives all the details about the law, including materials for employers, at www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers.
Women who are salaried, on contract, or work outside of a traditional setting may have more flexibility for time to pump during their work day, and should be able to use any breastfeeding room or other accommodation available to hourly staff. Some business communities, such as malls or office towers, have created shared accommodations open to all staff and visitors in their buildings. A fabulous set of examples of accommodations for women across all kinds of worksites and jobs can be found at http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/employer-solutions/index.html.
Regardless of your work situation, your employer cannot discriminate against you for breastfeeding or expressing milk during your shift. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also applies for ‘conditions related to childbirth,’ which includes breastfeeding. Therefore, your employer cannot treat you differently than any other employee who might have a similar health consideration that requires accommodations. The American Civil Liberties Union has a great FAQ at https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/pregnant-post-partum-and-breastfeeding-workers.
Of course, protections and requirements for accommodations by employers also mean that employees should not take advantage of the situation. Be honest with your employer about the time you will need to pump during the day; if this is longer than your paid break, then negotiate on how you would make up the extra unpaid time you need, by either taking a pay reduction or flexing your time to work a longer shift. You may also need to work things out with coworkers who will be covering for you while you’re away from your workstation.
Many health insurance providers, including Medicaid managed care organizations, have expanded their coverage for breastpumps. While all will cover a large, rented pump in case of a medical need, many are also providing their members with smaller ‘single-user’ pumps that are designed with working mothers in mind.
The first step in acquiring a pump is to call Customer Service for your health care plan and ask what they cover. Many have a set dollar amount that they allow; moms make up the difference if they want something different. Others have particular suppliers with whom they work, and who sometimes ship the pump directly to the member. When you call, you may need to be persistent with the Customer Service representative; sometimes they need to check on the particulars of your exact health care plan. Ask for the information in writing, or for a page on their website that gives you the exact details for ordering.
It’s a good idea to make the call about a pump during the latter part of your pregnancy. This gives you plenty of time to place an order before the baby comes. Some companies won’t allow the purchase until after the baby is born, so that’s why it’s a good idea to get things started early.
If your health insurance doesn’t cover a ‘single-user’ pump, and you qualify for the WIC Program in Kentucky, you may be able to get a pump through WIC. You can get details on WIC requirements and locations at this link.
Regardless of how you acquire a pump, its best to get a NEW pump. Used pumps may be contaminated with milk or insects, and will most certainly be out of warranty. You can always put a breastpump on your baby registry.
If you have any questions about working, breastfeeding, or pumping, please contact Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, with Breastfeeding Support Services at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department: 859-288-2348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.