The Best States for Breastfeeding Moms
Breastfeeding can be hard. But breastfeeding when you’re away from your baby for long stretches—like at work—is even harder because pumping breast milk to bring home to baby takes time and planning.
To help working breastfeeding moms, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended in 2010 to require employers with 50 or more employees to provide break time and a space to pump (that’s not a bathroom) to hourly workers. So while that’s progress, those breaks don’t have to be paid, and the law doesn’t actually cover every working mom. The good news is that many states have better laws that support breastfeeding. Mamava created a comprehensive guide to state-wide breastfeeding laws, rating each state on a five-point (drop) scale. While no state has been awarded all five drops, our first and second place categories all earned four drops for their policies that support breastfeeding moms.
First Place: The Breast of the Best
California, Illinois, and New York earn the (liquid) gold star for providing state-level protections for breastfeeding moms that far exceed those of the FLSA, as well as for additional policies that support breastfeeding and pumping moms beyond the workplace.
The Golden State is the gold standard when it comes to supporting breastfeeding. California law requires employers to provide all breastfeeding employees (not just hourly, as is the case with the federal FLSA) with break time and a private space—not a bathroom—to pump. But California doesn’t stop there: major airports need to provide lactation spaces beyond security (props to getting ahead of the 2018 FAA reauthorization that will require all large airports to provide lactation spaces by 2020). And San Francisco made history in 2018 by requiring all employers within city limits to provide a lactation space for employees. So yeah, California may be a laid-back state, but they mean business when it comes to supporting breastfeeding mothers. Read more about California breastfeeding laws.
Illinois, the home of Superman, is also a super state when it comes to supporting breastfeeding moms. State law requires employers with more than five employees (the FLSA threshold is 50!) to provide all breastfeeding employees with break time and a space—other than a bathroom—to pump. In 2018, the law was amended to remove the phrase “unpaid break time” to ensure that moms could use their regular paid breaks for making milk. While the law doesn’t stipulate a “paid” break, wages cannot be reduced for pumping breaks. Illinois also mandates that all public and charter schools provide time and a private space to pump for breastfeeding students. In 2016, Illinois passed the Lactation Accommodation in Airports Act requiring all large airports to provide accommodations for nursing mothers beyond security in every terminal. Effective June 1, 2019, all Illinois courthouses must provide a lactation space for visitors and employees. Read more about Illinois breastfeeding laws.
We love New York because it was one of the first states to pass a law (in 1994) explicitly protecting the right to breastfeed in public. (As of October 2018, it’s now legal in all states.) Like California and Illinois, New York requires all employers to provide all breastfeeding employees (not just hourly employees) with time and a space to pump. But New York extends these protections for up to three years after the child’s birth (FLSA covers one year). In addition, by state law, mothers in prison are allowed to keep their babies with them for up to one year.
New York City requires lactation spaces for departments that offer public services to families, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Social Services. NYC also just passed two new bills that would ensure even more lactation support for moms in the Big Apple. Read more about New York breastfeeding laws.
Second Place: Better Than Most
These four states earned three drops in Mamava’s rating system because they all improve upon the federal law by protecting all working moms (not just hourly). They also provide additional benefits either by extending the duration of workplace protections beyond one year (the FLSA is one year) or by setting a minimum standard for lactation spaces.
Maybe it’s all those majestic mountains, but Colorado is a very breastfeeding-friendly state. Its workplace protections require all employers to provide break time and a private space to pump for all breastfeeding employees (not just hourly) for up to two years after a child’s birth. Read more about Colorado breastfeeding laws.
Maine’s state motto is “The Way Life Should Be,” and that clearly applies to its protections for working breastfeeding moms. Employers in Maine are required to support all breastfeeding employees (not just hourly) by providing break time and a space (other than a bathroom) to pump. In addition, Maine extends these protections up to three years. Read more about Maine breastfeeding laws.
The spirit of America is alive and well in the Bay State. The 2018 Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers with six or more employees to provide all breastfeeding employees with break time and a space (other than a bathroom) to pump. In addition, the law stipulates that lactation spaces must include electrical outlets, a table, and a place to sit. Read more about Massachusetts breastfeeding laws.
Known for maple syrup, Bernie Sanders, and the birth of snowboarding, Vermont is a small state with big protections for working breastfeeding moms. Employers are required to support all breastfeeding employees (not just hourly) with break time and a space (other than a bathroom) to pump for up to three years. Plus, Vermont is the birthplace of Mamava, so we’re proud to call this state home. Read more about Vermont breastfeeding laws.
These seven states deserve honorable mention because they all have legislation that requires employers to provide break time and a private space to pump for all breastfeeding employees.