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Breastfeeding Laws by State

Breastfeeding laws in the US by state

Breastfeeding laws are proposed and reviewed every year. Besides the general health of the nation that is considerably better in pro-breastfeeding countries, breastfeeding brings huge cost savings for the health care.

In 2010 one US study reported that if 90% (today’s number is around 16%) of all mothers breastfed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months, the country could save $13 billion a year

To acknowledge unbeatable advantages of mother’s milk over other forms of nourishing a baby, many governments propose laws to support and promote breastfeeding in general and breastfeeding in public in particular.

Despite such laws and regulations breastfeeding mothers all over the US are still subject to harassment. It is important for every nursing woman to know: WE HAVE RIGHTS…protected by both federal and state laws. It is our responsibility to know them and act upon them!

US federal law (Affordable Care Act) requires all employers to provide employees with several unpaid breaks during the day to express breast milk in a place (other than a bathroom) for the duration of one year after baby’s birth.

There are certain exceptions, but not many employers are opposing the law. In fact, many companies go a step further by providing breast pumps at their new mom’s rooms.  Breastfeeding-friendly work places have lower level of absenteeism and higher level of job satisfaction and production. 

There are also state laws protecting breastfeeding. And since you can’t truly breastfeed exclusively without ever having to nurse in public, most states have laws allowing public breastfeeding (see chart below).

State Laws

As the chart shows Illinois is the most breastfeeding-friendly state, followed by Mississippi, Montana and Oklahoma.

West Virginia is the only state that stays passive in breastfeeding matters.

Some states have additional breastfeeding laws:

  • Virginia allows breastfeeding on any state-owned land.
  • Puerto Rico requires most public places (malls, airports) to provide a nursing area that is not a bathroom.
  • Louisiana prohibits any discrimination by a child care facility against breastfed babies.

  • Mississippi requires child care facilities to provide mothers with a clean area to breastfeed or express milk, refrigerator to store the milk. It also requires the staff to be trained in proper handling of breast milk and promoting breastfeeding.
  • California requires hospital training in exclusive breastfeeding following the birth.
  • Maryland exempts the sale of breastfeeding supplies and accessories from sales and use tax.
  • California, New York and Texas support and protect processing, distribution and use of breast milk.
  • New York has a Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights and allows mothers in correctional facilities to continue breastfeeding children under one.²

It is worth mentioning that according to the Breastfeeding Report Card compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012, breastfeeding rates continue to rise at a rate of approximately 2% per year.³

This is a promising improvement, but a lot of work still needs to be done.

It is always good to know your federal/state laws before negotiating your work conditions while still breastfeeding or pumping.

There shouldn't be any strong resistance from employers: most companies realize that there is more damage from opposing breastfeeding than from supporting it.

But the knowledge of these breastfeeding laws helps nursing moms become more confident and comfortable about doing the right thing for their babies and themselves.

¹ Source: “Got Milk?” by Jennifer B. Saunders

² Source: NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures)

³ Source: CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.



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