NCL’s Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights – National Consumers League

breastfeeding-crop.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

Breastfeeding is a safe, healthy and natural act through which mothers provide nourishment to their children. Breast milk is the best nutrition a child can receive and ultimately promotes better health outcomes, in the short and long term, for not only the child, but also the mother. A mother’s right to breastfeed has long been recognized by the Court in Dike v. School Board of Orange County 650 F.2d 783 (5th Cir. 1981). The National Consumers League supports a mother’s right to breastfeed and believes mothers should be encouraged, supported and protected through law and policy. This support and protection should be extended regardless of race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or source of payment for healthcare.

The National Consumers League issues the following Bill of Rights for breastfeeding mothers, including three key prongs we believe should be universal:

1.   Rights to breastfeeding information

  • A mother has the right to request breastfeeding information from her healthcare provider.  

  • Healthcare providers should inform mothers of the option of breastfeeding and her rights, proactively and upon request.

2.   Breastfeeding in a maternal healthcare facility

  • A mother has the right to have the baby stay with her and breastfeed after birth.

  • A mother has the right to request and receive assistance with breastfeeding.

  • A mother has the right to decide how her baby is fed and her decision should be respected by workers of the facility and other people. She has the right to refuse other methods of feeding unless the health of the baby is at risk.

  • A mother has the right to know about and refuse drugs or treatment that might affect her safety and ability to breastfeed.

  • Any health care facility that provides birthing services and maternity care should implement an infant feeding policy that promotes breastfeeding and equips itself with breastfeeding tools and educational resources.  

3.   Breastfeeding in public

  • A mother has the right to breastfeed her child in any public or private establishment or place where the mother and child are legally present, without harassment, discrimination or prosecution of any kind. A mother breastfeeding in public should not be asked to relocate.

  • These rights deserve full enforceable recognition and protection of local, state and federal laws. Explicit and encoded laws should give nursing mothers clear protection against discrimination. They also help shape public opinions on breastfeeding in public and thus help create an environment where women feel safe and encouraged to breastfeed.

  • No public or private establishment or place should enact an ordinance or rule that prevents breastfeeding a child.

  • Breastfeeding in a public or private location should not be considered lewd, immoral or indecent in any way; rather it is a natural and basic act to nurture a young child which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. Breastfeeding mothers should not be told to only do so in a discreet manner.

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Section 4207 amends The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to specify that a mother has the right to take reasonable break time to express breast milk for one year after childbirth at work. Employers must also provide a private space, other than a toilet stall, for that employee to express breast milk. Surveys have shown mothers are increasingly stopping their breastfeeding before recommended periods of time because of work-related reasons. Studies also show mothers who continue to breastfeed miss less time off from work because of baby-related illness. So, to promote the health and social benefits for mothers, their children, employers, and society, employers may not discriminate against mothers who choose to express breast milk at work. Employers should further adopt a written policy supporting breastfeeding practices in the workplace, including the space and equipment to clean and store expressed breastmilk.

  • The ACA requires new insurance plans to provide coverage for the cost of breastfeeding support, supplies and lactation counseling.