Parenthood in America is a cliff, with its steep financial burdens, emotional drop offs, and lack of proper support given to aspiring parents, it’s no wonder that birth rates are in decline. But for those who can afford parenthood, many are still unsure of their rights in and out of the public eye, particularly when it comes to the breastfeeding of their children. Despite the benefits of breastfeeding to both parents and infants, as well as the government policies and laws put in place to protect and promote breastfeeding, the public act of breastfeeding still remains a controversial issue.
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey of infants that were breastfed in the state of Colorado for the year of 2019, revealing that 94 percent of infants were breastfed at some point in their beginning lives, with 66.1 percent being breastfed through the first six months and 39.6 percent being breastfed through to their first birthdays. These indicators are calculated by year of child’s birth rather than the survey year. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recently updated its recommendations that breastfeeding continue for two years or more, but does note that it acknowledges the obstacles standing in parents’ ways. “We need societal changes that will help to support this, such as paid leave, more support for breastfeeding in public and child care facilities and workplace support,” said Dr. Joan Meek, a professor emeritus in the department of clinical sciences at the Florida State University College of Medicine and lead author of the new recommendations.
Byram HealthCare also surveyed 1000 expectant mothers, learning that 82 percent of them don’t know the main three rights guaranteed to them under the Affordable Care Act. The first federal law states that the costs of breast pumps are to be covered through insurance at no cost to the parent. The second law ensures that the costs of lactation consultants are to also be covered. And the third law states that employers must provide breaks and space in order for nursing parents to pump. This third law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor which mandates that the protection stands up to one year after the baby’s birth, and that the employer must provide a space to do so that is not a bathroom. Of course, employers are not required to pay the nursing parent during their pumping, nor are employers pressed by these laws if they have fewer than 50 employees and/or doing so would pose an undue burden on the company.
So where does Colorado stand in regards to these federal protections? The state has actually improved upon them for their resident parents. Under Colorado law, through the Nursing Mothers Act, public and private employers who have one or more employees are required to provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time, meal time, or both, each day to allow the employee to express breast milk for the nursing child for up to two years after the child’s birth. Outside of the workplace, breastfeeding laws are similar to those in any other state: breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal, despite what any naysaying passerby may claim.