mother breastfeeding baby in lactation room

Here’s what you need to know about lactation rooms and their requirements in the workplace.

Moms have rights in the workplace. One of the most important of these rights is to a private place to express breast milk. Being able to pump in a clean and private place can make working moms feel more comfortable and make pumping multiple times per day easier for them.

According to the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law, employers must provide adequate break time and a private place to express milk for most non-exempt and some exempt employees. This gives most moms the time they need to step away to pump and keep up their milk supply while they’re at work.

Now that most moms have time to nurse, it’s important to know where that’ll be happening while you’re at the office. From what’s required in one, to how you can get one if your employer hasn’t set one up already—here we break down what you can generally expect from a lactation room.

What is a Lactation Room?

Also known as a nursing room, pumping room or mother’s room, a lactation room is a private space for expressing milk that isn’t a bathroom (hello, sanitary pumping environment!). Lactation rooms offer nursing mothers a space where they can express milk multiple times per day, shielded from the view of others by a locking door, a screen or some other physical barrier. A lactation room can be either a permanent space (like a room) or a temporary enclosure—the essential thing is that it gives nursing employees privacy and prevents colleagues from intruding on them while they’re pumping or exposed.

Are Lactation Rooms Required by Law?

Generally, yes. The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law states that all businesses, regardless of size, must provide nursing mothers with a private pumping space and reasonable, unpaid break time for pumping, up until their infant’s first birthday. While all U.S. businesses are subject to this federal law, those with fewer than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from it on the grounds that creating a lactation room would cause them “undue hardship.” Businesses may additionally be subject to state nursing laws and requirements, which may extend more protections for breastfeeding moms. For example, Illinois law states that businesses with five or more employees, rather than 50, are subject to lactation room and break time requirements. Check your state’s laws and make sure you understand what you’re entitled to in the workplace as a breastfeeding mom.

What’s Typically in a Lactation Room?

A lactation room usually contains a chair and a flat surface for sitting a breast pump upon. While this is all that’s technically required, a nursing room might also feature a hospital-grade pump, electrical outlets, a refrigerator for storing breast milk, a sink for cleaning pump parts, anti-bacterial wipes and a microwave. Employers who go the extra mile might even outfit a lactation room with stylish furnishings, magazines and curtains for increased privacy within the lactation space.

How Can You Set Up a Lactation Room at Your Workplace?

While knowing your rights is half the battle, speaking up for your and other mothers’ needs is the best way to get a lactation room set up at your office.

If your employer’s office doesn’t have a lactation room, team up with other new moms in your workplace in order to communicate the need for a private nursing space to human resources and management. If you’re the only breastfeeding mom in the office, take initiative and advocate for yourself and the moms who will follow you! Schedule a meeting with HR and yourself to discuss your rights and a plan for moving forward with the creation of a lactation space—even if that space is temporary. Making a nursing room a reality in your office may take hard work and persistence, but in the end, know that it will help the nursing moms that come after you.

Breastfeeding is natural and so important for your baby’s health, so regular pumping in the workplace should be easy for all moms. Take advantage of the law in order to continue your breastfeeding journey, even as you return to the workplace!

If you’re looking for a pump to help ease your transition back to work, you’re in luck. Our team is here to help you shop for the perfect insurance-covered breast pump for your lifestyle.