Reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers in the workplace

New mothers face a multitude of concerns as they return to the workforce, including when and how they will express breast milk during the workday. Federal laws, however, offer them the right to reasonable accommodations.

Understanding the requirements of their employers helps many new mothers ensure they have the support they need as they get back to work.


According to, federal law requires employers to give new mothers time to express breast milk when needed during the workday. They must allow these breaks as frequently as necessary and should provide reasonable time for each break. Employees should keep in mind that, although employers must let them take these breaks, they may not have an obligation to compensate them during the time. Employers need only pay workers for breaks lasting less than 20 minutes or who use regularly compensated break time for pumping.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers must provide a functional space for new mothers to express breast milk. Although they cannot designate a restroom as this area, the space should provide privacy from view and intrusion. Employers do not have to provide a permanent space for nursing mothers on-the-job; however, they do have to make such an area available anytime a new mother needs to express milk.

Employers must generally provide these accommodations for up to one year after mothers give birth. Should they fail to uphold these legal obligations, workers may consider options such as filing a formal complaint or taking legal action to see the wrongs against them made right or to receive financial compensation.