Supporting Breastfeeding and Lactating Employees: What Employers Need to Know

Did you know that over 90 percent of new parents in California choose to chest/breastfeed their babies, with many wishing to continue after returning to work? Not only is providing simple lactation accommodations in the workplace required by law for all California workers, but it also makes a significant difference in employee satisfaction and your company’s bottom line.

By offering support for breastfeeding and lactating employees, you can foster a more inclusive workplace and improve employee retention. And providing such accommodations doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

To help you get started, this page offers simple, actionable ideas to support your breastfeeding and lactating employees.


Want this information in a print-friendly PDF? Use the button below to access our California Lactation Accommodation in the Workplace (L.A.W.) Guides.

What Lactating Employees Need

The data is clear: California families prefer human milk for their babies, and both the medical and scientific community recommend it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months, followed by the introduction of complementary foods. Additionally, the AAP supports continued breastfeeding until 2 years of age or beyond, if it is mutually desired by the mother and child.

Breastfeeding reduces the baby’s risk of many illnesses and diseases, including certain kinds of cancer, respiratory infections, Type II diabetes, and allergies. For the lactating individual, breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Type II diabetes, and heart disease.

The very act of lactation and breastfeeding helps your employees recover from pregnancy and delivery more quickly.

  • In California, 91% babies start life breastfeeding 91% 91%
  • That number drops to: 60% by the time the baby is 6 months old 60% 60%
  • By the time the baby is a year old: 38% of California babies are still breastfeeding 38% 38%

The AAP also notes that a mother’s access to lactation accommodation in the workplace has a direct impact on her ability to achieve their feeding recommendations.

Federal and state laws protect a woman’s right to breastfeed and to continue breastfeeding or to express milk in the workplace. However, many Californians say lack of lactation support in the workplace affects their ability to maintain the milk supply needed to nourish their children.

Some say they are afraid to ask about lactation accommodations or expressing milk at work, while others believe asking for accommodations would put their jobs at risk.


Your support makes a difference! 

What is a Lactation-Supportive Workplace?

When it comes to supporting an employee’s need and legal right to express milk at work, you only need to provide three simple accommodations:


A private, clean, and comfortable area to express milk — not a bathroom — with electricity to power their electric breast pump.


Break time to express milk as needed. 


Positive encouragement from supervisors and colleagues.

Did you know

Lactation Support is Good for Business

Thousands of businesses across the country have found that lactation support in the workplace is good for business. They’ve learned lactation-supportive workplaces can realize a 3-to-1 return on investment because of:

1. Lower health care costs — Lactating employees and their babies are healthier. Mutual of Omaha found that their newborn health care costs are three times less when employees participate in their lactation program. They save $2,146 annually for each employee.

2. Lower absenteeism for both parents — Less infant illness means fewer days off for parents to care for sick babies. CIGNA insurance company found a 77% reduction in lost work time because babies who receive their mother’s milk are healthier. The company saves more than $60,000 per year as a result of lower absenteeism rates.

3. Lower turnover rates — More employees return to work from family leave when they know their decision to breastfeed and express milk is supported in the workplace. Although one in five employees quit their jobs shortly before or after the birth of a child, a nine-company study found that the average return-to-work rate is 94% when a lactation program is provided.

Breastfeeding support improves:

  • Employee recruitment
  • Employee productivity 
  • Employee loyalty
  • Employee morale
  • Your image as a family-friendly employer

You Should Know:

In California, there is no limit to how long an employee is entitled to lactation accommodation in the workplace. Whether a child is 12 weeks, 12 months or 2 years, their lactating parent has the right to express milk at work under current law.

All lactating employees have the right to express milk at work, regardless of gender identity.

Employers cannot ask employees to provide a doctor’s note or other verification of their need to express milk at work. 

A bathroom is not a lawful or acceptable location to express milk. Airborne bacteria in restrooms puts infants at risk.

Employees may wash and store pump parts in a breakroom kitchen area, and store their milk in a breakroom refrigerator. 

California State and U.S. Federal Law Requirements for Lactation Accommodation

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, which passed in 2022, brought much of the nation in alignment with California’s existing law regarding lactation accommodation in the workplace.

But for employers who are not following California law, the PUMP Act raises the stakes. Under the PUMP Act, employees may sue their employers for lack of compliance — even if they haven’t filed a complaint with the Department of Labor. A lawsuit can be filed immediately in the following circumstances:

  • For violations of the break time requirement.
  • If the employer has indicated it has no intention of providing private space for pumping.
  • If an employee has been fired for requesting break time or space.

As laws at the state and federal level continue to evolve, conflicts may occur. In those instances, the law offering greater employee protections outranks the others. The same is true when cities or counties create local laws with stricter employee protections, such as the San Francisco Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance.

The Lactation Rights section of this website has a complete listing of laws applicable to California employees.

Lactation Space Requirements

  • A place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
  • A lactation room or location cannot be a bathroom and must be in close proximity to the employee’s work area, shielded from view, and free from intrusion while the employee is expressing milk.
  • A lactation room or location must comply with all of the following requirements:
      1. Be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials, as defined in Section 6382.
      2. Contain a surface to place a breast pump and personal items.
      3. Contain a place to sit.
      4. Have access to electricity or alternative devices, including, but not limited to, extension cords or charging stations, needed to operate an electric or battery-powered breast pump.
  • The employer must provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator suitable for storing milk in close proximity to the employee’s workspace. If a refrigerator cannot be provided, an employer may provide another cooling device suitable for storing milk, such as an employer-provided cooler.


  • Employers are required to have a space available every time an employee has a need to express milk. 
  • Where a multipurpose room is used for lactation, among other uses, the use of the room for lactation shall take precedence over the other uses, but only for the time it is in use for lactation purposes.

Workplace Lactation Accommodation Policy Requirement

An employer shall develop and implement a policy regarding lactation accommodation that includes the following:

  1. A statement about an employee’s right to request lactation accommodation.
  2. The process by which the employee makes the request for lactation accommodations in the workplace.
  3. A statement about the employer’s obligation to respond to the employee’s right to request lactation accommodation. 
  4. A statement about an employee’s right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for any denial or violation of a right to have lactation accommodations..

The employer shall include the workplace lactation accommodation policy in an employee handbook or set of policies that the employer makes available to employees.

The employer shall distribute the workplace lactation accommodation policy to new employees upon hiring and when an employee makes an inquiry about or requests parental leave.

If the employer cannot provide break time or a lactation space that complies with the employees’ lactation accommodation right, the employer shall provide a written response to the employee.

An employer shall not discharge, or in any other manner discriminate or retaliate against, an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise any right to request and access lactation accommodations in the workplace. An aggrieved employee may file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.

An employee may report a lactation accommodation request denial or violation to the Labor Commissioner’s field enforcement unit. If, upon inspection or investigation, the Labor Commissioner determines that a violation has occurred, the Labor Commissioner may issue a citation and may impose a civil penalty in the amount of $100 for each day that an employee is denied reasonable break time or adequate space to express milk at work. However, the PUMP Act of 2022 gives all employees the right to immediately sue noncompliant employers in this case.

Making Space for Lactation at Your Job Site

Compliance is possible in nearly every industry and work situation. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, over half of U.S. companies provide dedicated lactation rooms as part of their commitment to family-friendly benefits. A dedicated permanent lactation room makes sense, especially for businesses with a large number of employees. A business that is located in a multi-tenant building or multi-employer worksite can provide a space shared among businesses within the building worksite if the employer cannot provide a location within their own workspace.

Although using a private office of a manager or coworker is a flexible option, many employees feel uncomfortable asking colleagues to give up their office 2-3 times a day every day. Other solutions that enable access to the space when needed help employees feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Permanent and Flexible Lactation Space Solutions

Click on the industry for suggestions on space ideas and videos of other business’s solutions.

Accommodations (e.g., hotel and hospitality)
  • Conference room
  • Hospitality room
  • Manager office
  • Empty guest room
  • Employee break area

Hampton Inn: 

Agriculture (e.g., farm workers)
  • Portable pods or pop-up tents in safe, shaded location
  • Air-conditioned cab of a truck or tractor

Reiter Affiliated Companies

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
  • Portable pods for employees and the public
  • Modular walls to corner off an area of a larger space
  • Small Office area


  • Administration building
  • Small office space
  • Conference room
  • Converted closet or storage room
  • Faculty lounge area
  • Locker room
  • Teacher resource area

UC Davis:

Middletown High School:

Health Care
  • Conference room
  • Office area
  • Consultation room
  • Empty exam room
  • Curtained off area for multiple users

Tarrant County Health Department: 

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital:

  • Building space with shelving units or partitions
  • Storage room
  • Room with portable room dividers or curtains for multiple employees
  • Portable lactation station using pop-up tent or partitions


Shaw Industries:

Personal Services (e.g., salons, child care, home care)
  • Massage room
  • Empty treatment room
  • Employee break area
  • Storage room
  • Partitions or screens to section off private area
Professional, Scientific, Technical Services
  • Employee private office space
  • Dedicated lactation space
  • Multi-user room with partitions or curtains to create separate private spaces
  • On-site childcare to direct breastfeed child

City of Los Angeles

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Library of Congress

Group Publishing

Religious, Grantmaking, Civic
  • Employee private office space
  • Dedicated lactation space
  • Multi-user room with partitions or curtains to create separate private spaces
  • On-site childcare to direct breastfeed child

Greenforest Community Baptist Church

  • Split shifts
  • Manager office
  • Storage room
  • Flexible space created with partitions
  • Shared space in a mall or nearby businesses

Carl’s Jr.

Red Hen Bakery and Cafe

  • Dressing room
  • Manager office
  • Employee break room
  • Divider screens in the back to create private space
  • Shared space in a mall
  • Employee brings baby to work
  • Caregiver brings baby to the mom for feedings



The Giggling Green Bean

Goodwill Industries

Small Business
  • Employee’s private office (if available)
  • Manager’s office
  • Partition or privacy screen
  • Small room or area in the back of the business
  • Shared space with a nearby business
  • Employee brings baby to work
  • Caregiver brings baby to the mom for feedings

How to Support Lactating Employees in Small Businesses

Trade, Transportation, Utilities (e.g., bus drivers, train stations, delivery truck drivers)
  • Space in a city building (e.g., fire station, library, etc.)
  • Space in regional center
  • Partitioned area in warehouse
  • Portable pods or pop-up tents in safe location
  • Private office
  • Employee break area

Denver Water

Ben & Jerry’s

A “Funny Little Space”

Sometimes a “funny little space” can work! This might be an odd-shaped area that is not used much that could easily be sectioned off with a wall or partition for privacy to express milk.

Lactation Space Questions

How big should the space be?
A small space (minimum 4’x5’) works if it can accommodate a chair and a flat surface for the breast pump, and is large enough for the employee to move around.
What goes in the space?

The space must be “functional” for milk expression and private. This includes a comfortable chair (ideally one that can be easily wiped clean between users), a table or flat surface for the breast pump and personal items, and a door or closure that locks. Access to an electrical outlet for employees who use an electric breast pump. In California, lactation spaces must be safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials, as defined in Section 6382. Access to a refrigerator for storing expressed milk and nearby running water to wash pump parts is also required.


Other amenities include:

  • Hand sanitizer or wipes
  • Signage outside the room
  • Artwork or bulletin board to post photos of babies
  • Soft lighting to help with relaxation


Can more than one woman share a lactation room?
Some businesses with large numbers of employees provide multi-user rooms to allow more than one employee to express milk at a time. However, under state and federal laws, lactating employees are entitled to private space that is shielded from view, and free from intrusion from “coworkers and the public.” This means employees must be provided privacy from others who are expressing milk at the same time. An easy solution is to create individual private “stations” within a lactation room using partitions or other barriers.
How much will it cost?
Usually it costs nothing! Most businesses use existing space and office furniture. If the business builds or renovates a space, costs will depend on the renovations. For example, costs are higher if constructing walls. If converting an existing space such as a well-ventilated storage room, costs can be nominal.
What is the liability risk?
Risks are quite low. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers human milk to be food, not a biohazard. Human milk can be stored safely in an employee refrigerator. Potential liability from using a breast pump (if
provided by the company) is easily addressed by asking employees to sign a release of liability. If a business allows a caregiver to bring a baby to the mother during breaks for feedings, employees can sign a similar release of liability.

Going beyond the basic requirements makes you a more competitive employer, which will improve your ROI. Ask lactating and pregnant employees what amenities they would find most useful.

Managing a Lactating Employee’s Need for Breaks

Talk with lactating employees about their needs for break time to express milk. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that lactation breaks do not have to be paid unless the employee is using already established paid break periods to express milk.

Most parents need to express milk two to three times in an 8-hour work period. Many employees use their usual paid breaks and meal period to express milk. They typically need around 15 to 20 minutes to express milk, depending on the employee and the age of their child. This does not include set-up/clean-up and time to get to and from the lactation space. Policies need to be flexible enough to accommodate the individual needs of each lactating employee. If employees need extra time beyond the established breaks, discuss options for making up the extra time, such as arriving earlier or staying later, or taking a shorter meal period.

Keep in mind that lactation support is a temporary accommodation for your lactating and breastfeeding employees. Most employees will need less time for milk expression as they gain experience using their breast pump and as their child grows. It is important to note that in California, the law requires lactation accommodation in the workplace as long as the employee wants to continue to express milk for their child. There is no time or age limit for accommodation requirements in California. 



Many companies do not ask employees to clock in and out when taking milk expression breaks because this can add stress and negatively impact an employee’s ability to express milk. When employees feel supported, they are able to relax and express milk more easily and even more quickly.

The Importance of Communication in Supporting Lactating Employees

Proactive communication is essential in supporting breastfeeding employees. Communication ensures your workplace’s lactation accommodations function well for both your business and your employees. By maintaining an ongoing dialogue, Human Resources (HR) or supervisors/managers can receive timely feedback and make necessary adjustments.

Additionally, when employees are aware of the company’s lactation accommodation policy and practices, they can make informed decisions regarding their feeding choices.

To ensure effective communication, consider implementing a defined plan that is integrated into standard HR procedures. If it’s part of employee onboarding or family leave meetings, staff members stay informed and lactating employees receive the necessary accommodations whenever needed.

For instance:

1) HR or Supervisor Includes Policy in Employee Handbook

During yearly employee meeting, HR or Supervisor reviews and and shares:

    1. Workplace lactation accommodation policy in an employee handbook or set of policies that your business makes available to employees.
    2. Your Business does not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise any right to request and access lactation accommodations in the workplace. Jokes or demeaning comments about expressing milk toward the lactating employee can be considered sex discrimination and will not be tolerated. 

2) HR or Supervisor Distributes Policy to New Hires

At new hire orientation, HR or Supervisor distributes, reviews and shares:

    1. Workplace lactation accommodation policy to new employees upon hiring orientation.
    2. Your business does not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise any right to request and access lactation accommodations in the workplace. Jokes or demeaning comments about expressing milk toward the lactating employee can be considered sex discrimination and will not be tolerated.

3) Employee Make Inquiry or Request Parental Leave

At parental leave meeting, HR or Supervisor gives employee:

    1. Worksite lactation accommodation policy
    2. Employee checklist for returning to work
    3. List of local breastfeeding resources
    4. Paid Family Leave information 

4) HR and Supervisor Confirm Plans

Before the employee takes leave, HR and the supervisor confirm plans. Employee is given:

    1. List of private lactation accommodation spaces 
    2. Plan for schedule adjustments and coverage 

5) Ongoing Communication

HR, supervisor, or administrative staff meet with employees:

    1. Before they go on parental leave
    2. Within 10 days after return to work
    3. Again within 30 days after return to work 

Supervisors can be proactive by discussing lactation accommodations options while an employee is pregnant. Some employees are nervous about speaking up about their needs, especially to their supervisors. Letting them know breastfeeding and lactation is supported can help employees feel empowered as they make their infant feeding decisions.

How Human Resources Can Support Lactating Employees

As a human resource professional, you assure that workplace lactation accommodation support policies align with state and federal laws. You communicate policies and practices with supervisors and employees. You can:

  • Include lactation information in recruitment and onboarding of new staff.
  • Include the business policy and legal requirements in new supervisor training programs.
  • Check in with supervisors to assure that appropriate space and scheduling to accommodate the needs of lactating employees.
  • Give employees information on how to obtain a breast pump through the business’s insurance plan.
  • Monitor usage of lactation accommodation spaces and expand, if needed, to additional locations.
  • Seek feedback from lactating employees. A standard feedback form can help you assure continued improvements to your support provisions.
  • Provide educational resources for lactating employees at work. Contact us, your local breastfeeding coalition, or the California Work and Family Coalition to periodically review resources that employees might find helpful.


Graphic text reads: Know the Law: Download our lactation accommodation guide to understand your obligations as an employer in California.


Form a task force of current and prior lactating employees. Find out what additional support they believe would be helpful for future employees. Consider coordinating a mentor program to pair experienced “mentor parents” with employees returning to work after the birth of their baby, and/or employees considering pumping at work after returning to work.

How Supervisors or Managers Can Support Lactating Employees

Managers and supervisors set a positive tone for support. Inform your employees about lactation accommodation policies (preferably during their pregnancy) and arrange for coverage during lactation breaks, if needed. Ways to set a positive tone: 

  • Inform pregnant employees about the company’s lactation accommodation policy and locations of milk expression areas. Even a simple message that “We have a lactation accommodation support program should you need it” can help pregnant employees know they will be supported. 
  • Adjust scheduling and coverage options as needed.
  • Inform coworkers of the business’s lactation accommodation policy and benefits of lactation support. 
  • Promote a culture of teamwork and mutual respect. 
  • Work with HR for solutions to address questions or concerns that arise. 
  • Maintain ongoing communication to assure that employee needs are met.

Breaking the Law is Costly for Employers

Charnae Easton, a postal worker in Richmond, sued the U.S. Postal Service for discrimination, harassment and retaliation in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, in addition to failure to provide lactation accommodations and retaliation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In March 2021, Charnae was awarded compensation for emotional damages and the Bay Area USPS was required to immediately change its ways. The postal service must provide training to USPS supervisors and management, instruct managers and supervisors to affirmatively tell employees who ask about parental leave about their rights to pump and to meet with new parents on their first day back of work after leave to offer lactation accommodations.