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Breastfeeding At Work: Government Enforces Law Protecting Nursing Mothers

Breastfeeding At Work

First Posted: 01/06/12 12:33 PM ET Updated: 01/06/12 12:37 PM ET

As part of Obama's health care reform legislation, employers are now, for the first time, federally mandated to provide nursing mothers with breaks and a place to pump.

If you're thinking, "Huh? This didn't exist yet?" you’re not alone. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 (which also seems late in the game, no?), but the government is now cracking down on employers who don't comply.

McDonald's and Starbucks are among the 23 companies that have been cited by the Department of Labor, Sonia Melendez, a spokeswoman told MSNBC.

Hard and fast rules haven't been finalized yet, but the Wage and Hour Division fact-sheet gives us a sneak preview. According to the document:

"[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 ... [as well as] a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public."

The bold is ours because it bears emphasizing that bathrooms -- even private ones -- are not considered acceptable locations in which to feed a person.

As mothers are fighting to nurse in public without being ridiculed (or worse), these guidelines may be the next step to align directives from doctors about breastfeeding (breast is best!) with the messages they get from employers.

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Filed by Jessica Samakow  |