As anyone who has breastfed/chestfed a child can confirm, breastfeeding feels like a full-time job. There is a good reason why it feels this way. A 40-hour-per-week job translates to 1,960 hours of work each year. Conservative estimates clock a parent’s time breastfeeding a newborn at 1,800 hours annually.
As a result of this reality, it isn’t surprising that many mothers struggle when returning to work full-time while they’re still breastfeeding full-time. They clock nearly 80 hours of their time each week JUST earning wages and breastfeeding. When the need to work and the need to express milk overlap, the logistical challenges can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, many New York employers either don’t do much to support mothers in these circumstances or actively make navigating them harder.
Rights and responsibilities
Breastfeeding mothers and parents have rights. Accordingly, employers are bound to honor certain legal responsibilities codified by federal and state law. New York State expands federal protections for breastfeeding workers. For example, NY law guarantees that mothers who need to pump while at work are legally safeguarded regarding that need for three years after giving birth.
Employers must attempt – in good faith – to accommodate a need to pump in a private place other than a bathroom. Workers are also permitted to use paid break or meal times in addition to reasonable unpaid break times to pump as necessary.
As pumping milk as a breastfeeding parent is a legal right, employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against those who choose to exercise it. In the event that discrimination or retaliation occurs, workers may be in a strong position to take action. Seeking legal guidance to better understand their rights may be a wise decision, accordingly.