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Moms, advocates: State should do more to allow breastfeeding

breastfeeding room
USA Today

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Advocates for breastfeeding say Alabama employers should do a better job of allowing the practice at work.

At least 29 states have laws that protect breastfeeding and pumping breast milk at work — but Alabama is not among them, reported.

Alabama has the third-lowest breastfeeding rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alabama mothers tend to quit breast-feeding sooner than women elsewhere, said Gayle Whatley, a registered nurse and vice chairwoman of the Alabama Breastfeeding Committee. She says that's happening because of the lack of knowledge and support from their employers.

Once women head back to work, that's when breastfeeding rates "dramatically drop off," Whatley said.

"There are a lot of issues with mothers going back to work or school who have no place to pump. That's a big issue," she said.

When it comes to workplace lactation there are two major hurdles: a clean, private place to pump and the ability to take time during the workday to do it, reported.

Some Alabama mothers want to see that change.

Brianna Barker used to work at a daycare center where she was in charge of five rambunctious 1-year-olds.

Barker believed breastfeeding would be best for her baby. Her husband was starting a second job, and so breastfeeding became an economic decision, too. Breastmilk is free, while formula can be expensive.

But she found it impossible to make breastfeeding her child a priority that didn't conflict with her job. She eventually turned in her notice, reported.

Federal law requires workplaces above a certain size to provide "reasonable break time" for an employee to pump breast milk, and a private, clean place in which to do so.

However, the law exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees, such as Barker's former child care center, if the business can demonstrate that complying with the law would impose "an undue hardship" before remaining exempt.

State laws such as those in Georgia and Tennessee cover gaps left by federal law, such as requiring unpaid breaks for all breastfeeding mothers regardless of the size of the business.

Other states protect mothers from retaliation for pumping breast milk during the workday. Louisiana even has a law exempting breastfeeding supplies from state sales tax.

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