It’s official: August is National Breastfeeding Month.

Breastfeeding law update 2017

Breastfeeding provides many positive benefits for both mother and child and having the opportunity to celebrate it is a beautiful thing. In honor of this celebration, DRIA Cover has examined some changes which have come about in the way the law treats breastfeeding.

Across the US, there are many different approaches to the subject of breastfeeding, and for many, this alone causes lots of confusion. It can often be hard knowing what is allowed where, and what isn’t. So a rundown of some of the recent changes in the law might be a useful resource for any mothers (or pregnant women) out there.

The Affordable Care Act – breastfeeding law update

First of all, let’s take a look at Obama’s Affordable Care Act. While this Act has been the subject of some controversy, the extent of its stipulations is not often fully understood. In fact, many aspects of health and health care came under this Act, and breastfeeding was one of them. One interesting change is in Section 4207 of the Act which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act. As per 4207, employers now have to allow reasonable break time for mothers to breastfeed their child, for a year after their birth. The thing here is that mothers are allowed to do so anytime they need to breastfeed. In many ways, this shows a real development in the way the law treats the subject of breastfeeding. There is hope yet.

But that wasn’t the only change within the Affordable Care Act. It also requires that new private health insurance plans provide coverage for breastfeeding support with no cost sharing. As we can see, the ACA seems to be making a difference for mothers everywhere – but it’s not just this act which is worth paying attention to, there are more breastfeeding laws to update and understand.

State Differences in breastfeeding laws

Individual states also have many different legislation and approaches to breastfeeding which are worth knowing about. There are specific factors which apply to the majority of states at least. A good example here is the law allowing women to breastfeed in public places, no matter where it might be. This is applicable in 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, with only South Dakota and Idaho still frowning upon public breastfeeding. It’s a shame about those two, of course, but this means that for the majority of Americans, public breastfeeding is no longer an issue – provided that women use a proper breastfeeding cover.

But it’s not black and white as for whether or not it is legal to breastfeed in public. The law’s approach to this subject is often involved, and there are many alternative aspects of it to consider. Although you might think that using a breastfeeding cover up is all that’s necessary, you might not find that the law always agrees with you. 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. This means that in the other states, even if it is technically legal, you could still get in trouble from the indecency angle – even if you’re using a breastfeeding cover. Clearly, in some respects, we still have a long way to go.

Unique State Laws about breastfeeding

Some states have specific, unique laws which apply nowhere else, and studying those can tell us a lot about the way that breastfeeding is often viewed. Puerto Rico, for instance, requires public places such as shopping malls and airports to have designated breastfeeding areas. These must be distinct from bathrooms. Similarly, Louisiana law states that state buildings must provide suitable areas for breastfeeding and lactation. It seems as though other states might well be following in these footsteps soon. How quickly, however, is anyone’s guess – and only time will tell what happens.

Looking Ahead – the future of breastfeeding laws

It is hard to predict what is likely to change in the way the law treats breastfeeding. But if there is anything we can say for certain, it is that the public perception of this natural act does seem to be gradually shifting to a more positive one. The more that this happens, the more comfortable mothers will feel about breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover up. And with that, more and more places will change their laws to allow for a more relaxed attitude towards public breastfeeding. In time, we hope that it will become much easier for mothers everywhere to breastfeed wherever they might need to, in security and comfort.

More detailed information is available from this breastfeeding law update by the National Council of State Legislators.

Look for a breastfeeding law update every year for National Breastfeeding Month from all of us at DRIA Cover.