If you are a breastfeeding mom, you may be wondering what rights you have under the law in various situations. Here’s a legal primer on breastfeeding in the United States.
Nursing in public—Babies need to eat when they get hungry, and this includes breastfeeding! If you are new to nursing or have worries about breastfeeding in public, it can be helpful to know the laws in your state (especially if you are approached by someone who tries to ask you to leave a public location because you are nursing). The National Conference of State Legislatures has a wonderful information page regarding this. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws that specifically allow breastfeeding in public, and 30 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. This page lists states alphabetically so you can see what is happening where you live.
Breast pump coverage—The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did a lot for nursing moms, and one of the nicest changes was that many insurance companies now cover quality electric breast pumps. However, each insurance company varies in what they cover and how they want you to go about getting your pump. Because this can take a while to sort out, it’s best to look into this when you are still pregnant. Find out what your policy requires (Will they provide one when you are still pregnant? Do they need a pre-authorization? Do they need a prescription?) and try to get this taken care of sooner rather than later. This page has a nice chart to help you figure this process out.
Lactation consultant coverage—Also as part of the ACA, lactation consultant visits can be covered 100 percent without a co-pay (including outpatient postpartum visits). However, coverage varies just as it does with pumps. In order to know what is covered so you can be prepared before you deliver, you should contact your insurance company to get a list of possible lactation consultants whom you can call on should you need help after baby arrives.
Pumping at work—Under the ACA, employers who employee 50 or more workers are now required by law to provide break time for pumping moms if their babies are younger than 12 months. There is no set limit on the number or length of these breaks. In addition, they must also provide space to express milk that is private, and (this is the best part!) bathrooms are not considered an adequate space under the law. This fact sheet is a great summary of the law and can be a useful way to make employers aware of a nursing mother’s rights when she is discussing her return to work and her needs.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, December 2018
- State laws vary when it comes to breastfeeding in public, so be sure to know yours.
- Breast pumps and lactation support are now covered under the Affordable Care Act, but individual policies vary greatly.
- Moms who work at companies with 50 or more employees are required to be given time and space to pump milk for their babies less than 12 months old.