The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question about how new mothers manage to do all that they do: it’s complicated. New mothers have it tough. They are expected to care for an infant, feed and clothe themselves, keep their household running, keep other children in the house away from the stove and maintain a career. Oh, and they’re expected to do all of this on approximately three hours of sleep a night. And with the current groundswell known as the “breast is best” movement, mothers are also expected to be the sole providers of nourishment for their children even after their maternity leave ends.
Federal law has stepped in an attempt to support the rights of the nursing mothers. Under a Federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies must provide nursing mothers breaks to allow them to express breast milk until their child is at least one-year-old. While the company must allow time for these breaks, they are not required to compensate the employee. The company must also provide a private space where the mother can nurse or pump. In turn, employers cannot punish or retaliate in any way against mothers who exercise these rights.
Unfortunately, laws are never as straightforward as they seem. Only certain workers are guaranteed these rights under the FLSA, and only companies that meet specific criteria are required to allow workers time to express breast milk, unless the state has its own set of laws. In these situations, state law trumps federal. Indiana is one of many states that have created its own set of laws designed to protect nursing mothers.
Despite the existence of laws at the state and federal level, the internet is rife with working mothers stating that they were denied breaks, forced to pump in public dressing rooms and even harassed by co-workers for taking the time needed to do what was best for their baby. If you are working mother who has chosen to nurse her baby, you may have questions about your rights. Consider speaking with an attorney knowledgeable about the laws at both the state and federal level.