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Are You Meeting Your Obligations to Nursing Mothers?

One of the highlights of MBGH's "Believe in a Healthy Memphis: the 2011 Let's CHANGE Summit" held last July in collaboration with the Healthy Memphis Common Table, the Shelby County Health Department, and Shelby County Mayor Luttrell's office, was the decision to encourage breastfeeding friendly practices in all area birth hospitals. The Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition is taking the lead on this important initiative.

Clearly the hospital and its staff play a significant role in helping new mothers to breastfeed, but so do employers! Once new mothers come back to work, they need the place, the breaks, the education and the support to continue breastfeeding by expressing milk while at work. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, employed women have been less likely to breastfeed and, if they do breastfeed, they do so for a shorter period of time. So having a supportive workplace is essential to helping them continue to breastfeed their babies as long as possible.

The Business Case for Breastfeeding includes:

  • Breastfeeding employees miss less work
  • Breastfeeding lowers health care costs
  • Breastfeeding can:
    • Lower turnover rates
    • Result in higher productivity and loyalty
    • Create positive public relations

Read The Business Case for Breastfeeding published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for details.  

And if that is not enough, IT IS THE LAW!

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require:

"reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk" and to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." (see DOL Fact Sheet for details and employers covered by the law)

Federal law does not preempt State laws that provide greater protections. Tennessee requirements include:

"Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq. (2006, 2011) permits a mother to breastfeed in any location, public or private, that the mother is authorized to be, and prohibits local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding.  Specifies that the act of breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency as defined by § 39-13-511; or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct as defined in § 39-17-901. This law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq.) and § 39-13-511(d) were amended in 2011 by Tenn. Pub. Acts, Chap. 91 (SB 83) to remove a provision permitting mothers to breastfeed only infants 12 months or younger in any location. (2006 Tenn. Law, Chap. 617; HB 3582)

Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-305 (1999) requires employers to provide daily unpaid break time for a mother to express breast milk for her infant child. Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the workplace for this activity. (1999 Tenn. Law, Chap. 161; SB 1856)"

Want to be sure that your lactation support program is "best in class" for your employees? Here are some resources that will be helpful. Keep in mind that many of these resources were published in 2008, prior to the health reform requirement, but they are still relevant to establish a quality program.

Easy Steps to Supporting Breastfeeding Employees

Employees Guide to Breastfeeding and Working

Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition

As we are holding hospitals accountable to do their part in helping new mothers start breastfeeding, let's do our part in supporting new breastfeeding mothers when they return to work!


Posted by Cristie Travis at 4:48 PM

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