Women with children are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. Balancing work and family is an important priority for all employees. Today, more than 80% of new mothers in the United States begin breastfeeding,1 and 6 in every 10 new mothers are in the workforce.2 Learn federal rules and requirements for employers about breastfeeding and lactation at work. See success stories from all types of industries, including restaurants, retail, manufacturing, and more.
Top questions about supporting nursing moms at work
What time accommodations do I have to provide nursing employees?
“A place other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk” — U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act — Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision
Employers covered under FLSA must provide a private space for lactation that is not a bathroom. “Private” means that other people cannot see an employee while she is pumping breastmilk. Often this means putting a lock on the door, but some companies use mobile screens or tall cubicle areas. The space does not have to be a permanent, dedicated lactation room. This section shows many solutions for providing permanent, flexible, or temporary spaces and even mobile options that can be used in virtually every type of industry. Learn more about providing appropriate locations for nursing moms to express milk.
How do I create a lactation policy at work?
Companies establishing policies should include provisions that align with the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, including the Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision under Section 7(r). This requires businesses to provide both reasonable break time and private space that is not a bathroom for nursing women to express milk at work. Policies should also align with any state laws that provide greater support and any union or local regulations.
Download a sample policy (PDF, 106 KB).
Consider the following components:
Describe how your business will accommodate breaks for nursing women to express milk. This may include:
• Offering milk expression breaks that are scheduled, part of breaks or meal periods already provided, taken as needed, or arranged on a case-by-case basis with the supervisor
• Clarifying whether milk expression breaks will be paid or unpaid, or whether hourly employees will need to clock out for breaks
• Determining how extra time beyond regular breaks will be accommodated if it takes longer for an employee to arrive at the lactation space and finish expressing milk
• Deciding who will cover for the employee, if needed, during breaks
• Stating how breaks will be scheduled among multiple women who may need milk expression or pumping breaks
• Explaining how an employee’s regular schedule or route will be temporarily changed to accommodate lactation breaks
Describe how your business will provide private areas where women can express milk. The policy might specify:
• Whether the lactation space is permanently designated; a flexible space available on an as-needed basis, such as a private office or storage room; or an outdoor or mobile temporary space, such as a pop-up tent or a company car
• Basic amenities that will be available to make space functional for expressing milk, such as a chair and a flat surface for a breast pump
• How space will be made private, shielded from view, and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public
• Who will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the space
• How space will be scheduled if there is more than one employee using the lactation space
Roles and responsibilities
Establish clear expectations for the employer and all employees. For example:
• Companies and businesses can educate supervisors, managers, and employees about the benefits of and legal requirements for supporting nursing mothers.
• Supervisors can assume responsibility for informing all pregnant women about their options for expressing milk before maternity leave and for working out scheduling and space for individual employees as needed.
• Employees can assume responsibility for notifying supervisors as soon as possible of their needs and for keeping the milk expression space clean.
• Coworkers can support nursing mothers by filling in during pumping breaks, knowing that breastfeeding mothers need to pump about every 3 hours, understanding that mothers who need a break to pump are not trying to avoid their work duties, and being supportive of the flexibility that mothers need to balance breastfeeding with work. Coworkers can also be assured that breastfed babies are healthier, which means that an employee who breastfeeds is less likely to miss work to care for a sick baby.
Our business is very small and has no extra space. How can we comply with the federal regulations?
Even businesses with very little space can support a mother’s breastfeeding goals and comply with federal regulations under FLSA. A functional space is usually large enough for a chair and a flat surface for the mother’s breast pump. Flexible and temporary options, such as allowing the employee to use a manager’s office or screening off a small area, often work well. Some companies even partner with neighboring businesses to share lactation space for nursing moms. Learn more about space solutions.
What the law says about breastfeeding and work
The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work. These accommodations include time for women to express milk and private space that is not a bathroom each time they need to pump. Learn more about what is required of employers and what employees need to know.
In 2010, Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to require employers to provide basic accommodations, such as time and space, for breastfeeding mothers at work. Learn more about what employers are required to provide.
“Reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk” — U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act — Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision
Employers covered under FLSA must provide a reasonable break time to express milk. The law recognizes that each woman will have different needs for milk expression breaks (often called pumping breaks). Some flexibility will help make this work. Most women use their standard breaks and meal period to pump or express milk.
Even in work environments that require a more rigid employee schedule, reasonable time can be accommodated. Women can schedule breaks ahead of time, if needed. Some companies, such as manufacturing plants and schools, often provide floaters for coverage when employees are taking breaks. Sometimes a supervisor fills in.
Learn more about providing adequate break time for nursing moms. You can also see what other businesses have done to schedule break time for nursing moms.
For breastfeeding employees
What breastfeeding employees need to know
Nursing moms often have many questions about how to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. Read frequently asked questions about breastfeeding at work, including how to talk to your supervisor about your needs and where to find resources and support.
Am I entitled to breastfeeding support at work?
You are covered under the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law if you are also covered by Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA is the federal law that establishes the federal minimum hourly wage and the requirement to pay overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a week. FLSA applies to most hourly employees. If you don’t know whether you’re covered under FLSA, ask your supervisor or human resources manager. Also, every employer who must follow FLSA must post a notice (PDF, 147 KB) in the workplace about the federal minimum wage. This notice also has information about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law on it.
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires FLSA employers to provide break time for women to express milk and a functional space that is not a bathroom each time they need to express.
Many employers provide these lactation benefits to any nursing mother at the workplace, regardless of coverage under FLSA.
Break time and private space
Businesses use many solutions to give nursing mothers time and space to express milk at work. Employers can adjust schedules temporarily in creative ways so that women have the time they need to express milk. A variety of permanent, flexible, or mobile space options enable employers to provide support, even when space is limited. Supporting nursing mothers at work has been found to bring businesses a positive return on investment. Learn about common solutions that might work for your company.
Time for breaks
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide reasonable break time for employees to express their milk or pump during the work period. Learn more about how to provide reasonable break time for nursing moms at work and other ways to support breastfeeding moms at your workplace.
Location for breaks
There are many creative options for employers having trouble finding lactation space. No employer is required by law to provide a permanent lactation room, although many do. If you don’t have space for a permanent room, consider using an existing office, closet, or storage area on an as-needed basis, screening off an area in a larger space, or providing a car windshield cover or a single-person pop-up tent. Learn the attributes and benefits of different lactation space solutions.
Lactation break time and space in all industries
Solutions to support nursing moms at work are being implemented in all industry sectors. Specific options vary based on the unique job setting. View brief videos showing how lactation break time and space can be created in all types of jobs and workplaces.
Restaurants and hotels
Restaurants are the second-largest private-sector employer in the United States,1 and hotels and other accommodations provide more than 1.4 million jobs in the United States.2 More than 50% of the people working in restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality jobs are women.3 See lactation break time and space success stories from restaurants and hotels.
Retail and personal services
More than 15 million jobs in retail sales will be available in the United States in the next decade. Personal services, such as companion caregiving, are projected to be among the fastest growing industries.1 About 50% of employees working in retail and more than 75% of employees providing personal care, such as hairdressing, home health care, or child care, are women.2 View and share lactation break time and space video success stories in retail and personal service worksites.
Health care jobs are projected to grow 18% through 2026, adding about 2.4 million new jobs, more than any other industry.1 More than 3 out of every 4 people working in health care are women.2 View and share lactation break time and space success stories from health care worksites.
Jobs in education are projected to grow 9% through 2026, adding almost 1 million new jobs, while enrollment is projected to increase at all levels of education.1 Almost 3 out of every 4 people working in education are women.2 View and share lactation break time and space success stories from schools, universities, and libraries.
Manufacturing, factories, and warehouses
Some types of manufacturing occupations, such as food processing1 and commercial baking,2 are expected to grow in the next 10 years. Jobs in warehouses, such as packers3 and machine operators,4 are also projected to grow in the future. In many types of manufacturing jobs and some warehouse jobs the majority of employees are women.5 View and share lactation break time and space success stories from factories and warehouses.
Jobs in the transportation industries are expected to grow in the next 10 years.1 Some jobs in transportation, such as flight attendants, are expected to grow faster than average.2 And some transportation jobs, such as bus drivers, have almost as many female employees as males.3 View and share lactation break time and space success stories in transportation jobs.
Women work in a wide variety of industries where the worksite is a public space. This includes museums, local government offices like the Motor Vehicle Administration, or even sporting arenas. In many types of jobs performed in public spaces, such as social workers, librarians, and religious institutional staff, the majority of employees are women.1 View and share lactation break time and space success stories from different types of jobs carried out in public areas.
Outdoor job sites
Most types of agricultural and construction jobs are expected to grow in the next 10 years.1 Many types of agricultural jobs, such as graders and sorters, have a workforce that is more than 50% female.2 While only 3% of construction jobs are held by women, more than 250,000 women work in construction and may need lactation support.2 Women also work outdoors as installers, technicians, mechanics, or inspectors. View and share lactation break time and space success stories from outdoor job sites.
Many office, administrative, technical, and professional jobs are projected to grow in the next 10 years.1 Over half of the people working in management, business, or other professional jobs are women.2 Even though occupations and industries that involve office work are numerous and diverse, employers can accommodate women who work in office settings with lactation break time and space. View and share lactation break time and space success stories from various types of professional or office jobs.