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Research shows that breastfeeding can help to reduce childhood obesity and protects babies from several medical issues.  Benefits are particularly noticeable when mothers exclusively breastfeed for the baby’s first six months and continue breastfeeding up to two years of age with appropriate, complementary foods.  Mothers can legally breastfeed in public in every state and federal law permits working mothers a reasonable time to express breast milk in a private setting at the workplace.

Background Information on Breastfeeding

  • Surgeon General’s Comments on Breastfeeding
    • Breastfeeding is an activity that combines many benefits with virtually no downside and has been recognized as the ideal form of nutrition for infants and toddlers.   June, 2009 represented the 25th anniversary of the Surgeon General's workshop on breastfeeding and human lactation; in the following report, the Surgeon General discusses the status of breastfeeding.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • The CDC is committed to increasing rates of breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity throughout the United States and to promoting optimal breastfeeding practices toward the ultimate goal of improving public health.  The first CDCwebsite listed provides guidance and recommendations to promote and support breastfeeding including research on breastfeeding practices and health benefits for both mother and child.  The second website listed below includes the 2009 edition of CDC's annual Breastfeeding Report Card which CDC releases on a yearly basis and describes important indicators regarding breastfeeding friendly states and the breastfeeding rates in those states and the Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care Survey.
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
    • The WHO also acknowledges the many benefits of breastfeeding and recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age with continued breastfeeding, along with appropriate complementary foods, up to two years of age or beyond.
  • National Business Group
    • The National Business Group on Health’s November 2009  issue brief  "Workplace Breast-feeding Programs: Employer Case Studies"  identifies several companies  that have policies supporting breastfeeding mothers and further takes the position that breastfeeding is important because it may help to mitigate health care costs, lost productivity and absenteeism.


Federal Law


State Law Related to Breastfeeding

There are no laws in the United States forbidding breastfeeding outside of the home, and only two states (Illinois and Missouri) place any limitation on public breastfeeding.  State laws protect public breastfeeding by expressly stating a woman has a right to breast-feed in public or by specifying that the act of breastfeeding is not indecent exposure. 

  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
    • The NCSL provides a summary of state breastfeeding laws. As of March 2010, forty-four states, the District of Columbia, and the United States Virgin Islands have health laws with language specifically allowing women to breast-feed in any public or private location.  Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the United States Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.  Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws relating to breastfeeding in the workplace.  Twelve states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty and five states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encourage the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign.

Case Law Related to Breastfeeding in the Workplace

  • Plaintiffs have argued for protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). 
    • Title VII, the federal law that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination, covers all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions with 15 or more employees. In addition to prohibiting discrimination against workers because of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex, those protections have been extended to include barring against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, sex stereotyping, and sexual harassment of employees.
    • First, plaintiffs argued that breastfeeding should be considered a “related medical condition” to pregnancy and second they argued that Title VII prohibits breastfeeding discrimination because excluding it from coverage is contrary to the stated Congressional intent behind the PDA amendment.  Courts have typically concluded that breastfeeding is a choice made by the mother and not protected under Title VII.

DISCLAIMER: Information available on this website that was not developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not necessarily represent any CDC policy, position, or endorsement of that information or of its sources. The information contained on this website is not legal advice; if you have questions about a specific law or its application you should consult your legal counsel.

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