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This Mother’s Day, Support Nursing Parents at Work

This post was originally published at Legal Aid at Work, and is cross-posted here with light edits and Legal Aid at Work’s permission.

When To-wen Tseng returned to work after her maternity leave, her employer didn’t provide her a place to pump milk, so she had to use the restroom. When she tried to wash her pumping accessories in the kitchen, her co-workers told her “don’t wash your dirty panties here.” She felt upset and demoralized. Her milk supply decreased dramatically. Eventually she left her job. 

Ms. Tseng’s experience isn’t unique. Nationally, too many workplaces fail to provide clean, private places for nursing parents to express milk, causing them to stop breastfeeding prematurely. And each year, the legal services provider where I work receives dozens of calls on our Work and Family Helpline from new parents in California who are denied their right to pump, harassed by their co-workers, and forced off the job when they stand up for themselves.

Existing law requires employers to provide new parents a time and space to pump at work, but too few employees know their rights, and too few employers know their obligations. A new, landmark bill in California would change all that.

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Courtesy To-wen Tseng

Senate Bill 937 would require employers to have a written policy informing workers of their right to request lactation accommodations and how to do so. By requiring employers to educate all their employees—not just those who are pregnant—the bill aims to normalize lactation and decrease stigma. In addition, employers would need to provide workers a lactation room that’s safe, clean, and free of toxic materials, as well as a place to sit, electricity, and nearby access to running water and a refrigerator.

Progressive legislation like SB 937 isn’t just good news for breastfeeding parents. It’s important for kids and companies too. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity. And workplace policies that support lactation lower employer healthcare costs, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, improve productivity, and boost morale.

So this Mother’s Day, skip the flowers and instead show your love for the moms in your life by asking your lawmakers to introduce legislation like California’s SB 937.

After all, no parent should be forced to choose between their child’s health and their family’s financial security.

Header image via To-wen Tseng.

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