Despite what some vegan antagonists may argue, breastfeeding is vegan. A human mother voluntarily providing her human child milk that she naturally produced for that child does not fall outside the bounds of what it means to be vegan. Those who believe otherwise do not truly understand what it means to be vegan.
Now that we have established that vegans can breastfeed without violating any vegan “laws,” let’s explore the five most important breastfeeding laws and regulations.
Breastfeeding in public: All states (excluding Idaho), as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. There is no federal law that addresses breastfeeding in public and private places.
Breastfeeding at work: Section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. Employees are not entitled to compensation while they are expressing breast milk. Employers must provide an appropriate space for the mother to express milk. A bathroom is not considered an appropriate space.
If these requirements prove to be a hardship to the employer, and the employer has fewer than 50 employees, the employer is not subject to the requirements. It is important to note that an employer with fewer than 50 employees is not automatically exempt from the requirements. The employer must show that it is a hardship.
Employees who are not covered by Section 7 of the FLSA are not covered by these regulations. If you are not sure if you are a covered employee under Section 7 of the FLSA, contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Despite the fact that employees not covered under Section 7 are not entitled to these protections, the Department of Labor encourages ALL employers to provide said protections to both covered and non-covered employees.
Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws providing similar or additional rights and protections to working mothers who breastfeed.
Distribution of breast milk: There is no federal law that regulates the distribution of breast milk. Only four states – California, Maryland, New York and Texas – have laws that address the procurement, processing, and distribution or use of human milk. These laws can be of particular interest to vegans who would like to use or start a vegan human milk bank. Please be aware that there are other considerations and liabilities (i.e. allergies) when donating to or receiving from a human milk bank. For more information on human milk banks, please visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (https://www.hmbana.org/).
Breast pumps: Under the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment (including a breast pump) for the duration of breastfeeding. These services may be provided before and after birth.
Miscellaneous laws: While Idaho may be the only state that doesn’t have a law on the books allowing for women to breastfeed in any public or private location, the state does have a law permitting women to be exempt from jury duty if they are breastfeeding. Sixteen other states and Puerto Rico also have similar laws with respect to breastfeeding mothers and jury duty.
Louisiana and Maryland have laws that prohibit the taxation of breastfeeding items.
And one state – New York – even has a Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights. This document must be posted in maternal health care facilities.
Much of this information was found on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. If you would like to learn more about breastfeeding laws, their website is a great place to start.
Disclaimer: Although Ashlee K. Cartwright, Esq. is a licensed attorney, the content contained in this column is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice. Please understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the columnist and/or website publisher. If you have a question about a specific or personal legal matter, please contact a local licensed attorney.