Maloney, Merkley applaud new information issued by Dept. of Labor on unpaid break time for nursing mothers

– Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today applauded the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for issuing new information on unpaid break time for nursing mothers included in the health care reform law.

“These guidelines should help make it clear how the break time provision for nursing mothers works,” Rep. Maloney said. “For individuals and businesses alike, this fact sheet offers clarity about how an hourly employee can access their rights under the law.”

“There is almost universal agreement in the medical community that breast milk is best for children; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue partially for at least the first year of a child’s life. But the real world sometimes conspires against working moms who want to provide their children with the best, since a majority of new mothers go back to work before that first year ends. This new law helps mothers who are hourly workers find the time, and a place, during the workday to express milk for their babies,” Maloney said.

“Women shouldn’t have to choose between breastfeeding or a paycheck,” said Merkley.  “Breastfeeding has been proven to help prevent diseases in both babies and moms, while at the same time increasing productivity for businesses.  I’m pleased that women, babies, and businesses across the country will have the same benefits that Oregonians have had for the last several years.”

Research studies show that children who are not breastfed have higher rates of mortality, meningitis, some types of cancers, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections, diarrheal diseases, ear infections, allergies, and obesity. There have also been numerous benefits to mothers shown, including improved bone mineralization, an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, and decreased risk of certain cancers.

Maloney is the prime sponsor of the Breastfeeding Promotion Act in the House (H.R. 2819) and Merkley sponsors the Senate companion (S. 1244), which both include the unpaid break time provision for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. That provision was included in the Health Care Reforms signed into law by President Obama in March, and took effect immediately. The fact sheet issued by the Wage and Hour Division on the topic constitutes official guidance for companies with more than 50 hourly workers covered under the new law.