SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (S. 1658/H.R. 3110), was recently signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022.
The bill expands workplace protections for employees with a need to express breast milk. Specifically, it expands the requirement that employers provide certain accommodations for such employees.
Additionally, time spent to express breast milk must be considered hours worked, if the employee is also working.
If a claim of liability against an employer is made, an employee generally must first notify the employer that they are not in compliance and provide them with 10 days to come into compliance with the required accommodations.
Finally, the bill provides certain exemptions from these requirements for air carriers.
“The original law required employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for breastfeeding employees to pump during the workday,” said Nandi A. Marshall, DrPH, MPH, CHES, CLC. “While this was an important step, one out of every four birthing parents of childbearing age was not covered by the Break Time law.”
There are currently a few public breast/chestfeeding spaces in the Savannah area, including at the Oglethorpe Mall and a room at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
Sheri Bennett who works at Claire’s in the Oglethorpe Mall went back to work soon after having her kids, who today are adults.
“The first one, I want to say it was between 6 to 8 weeks that I actually went back to work. All three of my kids, they were actually breastfed and bottle-fed. I actually had a really good support system.”
She continued, “I can tell you, honestly, we actually have a nursing mom here and whenever she does need to pump, then I tell her to shut gate, close off for a minute, take a break and go and do what she got to do.”
Representatives of Healthy Savannah, YMCA of Coastal Georgia, Chatham County Health Department, and the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University are applauding the new legislation.
Marshall and her team, through the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Racial & Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) are seeking to increase spaces by assisting local businesses to adopt or strengthen company-wide breastfeeding and lactation space policies.
“While we want all local organizations to be aware of and heed this new legislation, we also want them to know we’re here to assist them in their efforts to provide breast/chestfeeding-friendly spaces, especially for their employees,” said Marshall.
She continued, “Supporting parents in their nursing journey is not only the right thing to do, but also increases morale, a sense of belonging, and workplace productivity. Science overwhelmingly shows that parents who feed their babies human milk are significantly less likely to miss work in their infant’s first year of life and tend to have higher retention rates, improved morale, and lower health care and insurance costs as their children are sick less.”
According to the CDC, families can face many challenges when it comes to breastfeeding and many families do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to. With the steady decline in any and exclusive breastfeeding from month to month, the center says there is an indication that breastfeeding families may need stronger systems of support to reach their breastfeeding goals.
On more businesses offering breast/chestfeeding spaces, Bennett said, “I think they should because it’s not like Savannah is getting any smaller.”
Madison Terry is a mom of two who works from home. When she is out and needs to nurse, she said, “I don’t feel the need to go into lactating rooms. I am comfortable enough to just sit out in the open and feed my baby because that’s what works for us.”
She continued, “I’m also someone who, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable if someone else is staring at me or anything, it just doesn’t bother me.”
On how REACH is able to assist Savannah businesses in their efforts to provide breastfeeding friendly spaces for employees Marshall said, “Our team is willing to walk through their current office space to assist with identifying ways to make their business more breastfeeding friendly. They can email me at email@example.com or call my office at 912-479-3307.”