Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
More than a quarter of Pennsylvania families with infants struggled to find baby formula according to a Household Pulse Survey in October. The survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, asked parents if they had difficulty finding baby formula in the last seven days. About 16 percent of parents had less than a one week supply of baby formula on hand.
When asked how they were dealing with the formula shortage, over half of Pennsylvania parents said they were breastfeeding more often to compensate. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has strong protections for breastfeeding parents, like the Freedom to Breastfeed Act passed in 2007. The Freedom to Breastfeed Act says that “breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurturing that must be protected in the interests of maternal and child health and family values.” It permits parents to breastfeed in public, and says that breastfeeding cannot be considered “a nuisance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct or obscenity.”
Federal law also protects parents that are returning to in-person work. The Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama modified the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to add legal protections for nursing parents in the workplace. Most employers are required to offer a private, functional space that is not a bathroom from breastfeeding or pumping. They are also required to offer a reasonable break time to breastfeed or pump each time it is necessary for one year after birth. The break does not need to be a paid break. Employees who are exempt from section 7 of the FLSA are not offered these protections.
A Philadelphia law requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations for a breastfeeding employee so long as it does not cause undue hardship for the employer. They are required to offer unpaid break time to breastfeed or pump milk, allow employees to use paid break or meal times to breastfeed or pump, and provide a private, sanitary space that is not a bathroom to breastfeed or pump milk.
People who believe they are being denied their legal rights to breastfeed or pump milk are encouraged to contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division online, by phone, or by visiting the nearest physical office to file a complaint.