In good news for nursing mothers, this week, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act advanced in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate. This legislation would provide urgent relief for nursing mothers, millions of whom currently do not have a clear right to break time and space to pump at work. The PUMP Act will strengthen the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, extending the law’s protections to 9 million employees who are currently uncovered, including nurses, teachers, and software engineers. The PUMP Act will also provide employees with appropriate remedies to ensure they get the time and space they need.
Without these protections, nursing mothers can face serious health consequences, including risk of illness and infection, diminished milk supply, or inability to continue breastfeeding. For instance, Sarah, a health care worker in Kansas, resorted to pumping milk in her car just once a day after her boss discouraged her from pumping at work, in spite of the fact that at least six of her coworkers regularly took smoke breaks multiple times a day. Her supervisor also made disparaging comments about her choice to breastfeed her baby, like “I gave my baby the bottle—I couldn’t imagine having a baby attached to me.” Sarah frequently became engorged and suffered from painful clogged milk ducts, and her milk supply dropped. As A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Dina Bakst testified this March at the “Fighting for Fairness” Congressional Hearing, “These harsh workplace conditions for breastfeeding parents represent a fundamental unfairness and inequity in our legal system – and reinforce the stereotype that motherhood and employment are irreconcilable.” Bakst also noted that the adverse effects of insufficient time and space to express breastmilk are disproportionately felt by low-wage working women of color, many of whom have been left out by gaps in existing laws. Since its introduction last year, A Better Balance has continually supported the PUMP Act, which would close these gaps and extend protections to millions of nursing workers.
Pregnant and breastfeeding workers should not have to choose between their jobs and expressing milk at work. While this week’s Congressional actions are crucial steps forward, we are calling on Congress to pass this crucial piece of legislation and provide some of the much-needed relief that working mothers deserve.
For more information about your workplace rights as a nursing mother under state laws, consult our State Laws for Nursing Mothers resource.