Guest Opinions

Idaho employers breaking federal law regarding nursing mothers

Taylor Barrera-Lopez
Taylor Barrera-Lopez

Returning to work as a breastfeeding mother is a difficult role to maintain. In order to keep a sufficient supply for an infant a nursing mother will need to pump as often as nursing an infant would take place (every two to four hours for 15 minutes) according to La Leche League. This along with leaving a newborn at home and maintaining all the needs for pumping including the parts, soap, storage backs, and ice packs are stressful enough — the last thing a working, breastfeeding mom wants to do is fight with her employer over pump laws and breaks.

The Federal Labor Standards Act, Section 7, amended in 2010 states that a workplace is required to provide a private place to pump for the first year of the infant’s life that is not a bathroom and that others are unable to access.

Though this federal law is a requirement, Idaho does not support this federal legislation with a law of its own. A state legislative bill requiring workplaces in Idaho to provide ample time for nursing women to breast pump and a private place to do so would support nursing mothers. Currently it happens often that there is nowhere for the mother to express her milk. This has happened to me personally on more than one occasion — in three different employment locations to be exact. One of which was a state facility.

The benefits of breast feeding are well worth providing privacy and two 15-minute breaks twice a working shift. Breastfeeding has the ability to decrease postpartum depression, provide better work performance as the returning employee could concentrate on completing work rather than stressing over pumping times, and provides better immunity for the infant according to the National Institute of Health.

A state law protecting nursing women would allow families to stress less about the health of mother and baby. It would show the women of Idaho that the state understands their needs and is making an effort to support them. It would also help to solidify and support the federal law creating a nursing friendly environment for employees. It could also present a consequence to those who break the law further supporting working mothers.

Taylor Barrera-Lopez is a nursing mother and works as a C.N.A., mental health case manager and CBRS worker. She is in the Master of Social Work program at Our Lady of the Lake University.