Nursing and Pumping in Philly
By Kasey Erin Phifer-Byrne
Curious about breastfeeding rights, laws, and resources in the city of motherly love?
There's a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there on the wild web about breastfeeding in public, and I'd like to clear a few things up as well as share some Philly-specific information about breastfeeding and pumping.
Nursing in Public
First of all, let's get one thing straight: Pennsylvania law protects a mother's right to breastfeed her baby in public. This is called the Freedom to Breastfeed Act, and it states first that, "breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurturing that must be protected in the interests of maternal and child health and family values." Further, "a mother shall be permitted to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present, irrespective of whether or not the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding."
In simple terms? You are allowed to nurse your baby in any place, public or private, where you and baby are allowed to be—and it doesn't matter if you show some boob or even nipple in the process. This might not stop uninformed personnel from trying to tell you otherwise, because it's a policy of which not everyone is aware, but they can't legally make you leave, cover up, or stop nursing.
This means you're allowed to feed your baby anywhere from parks to schools to restaurants, with or without a cover. Period.
Pumping at Work
If you're pregnant and thinking about how to pump when you return to work, or you're getting ready to head back into your workplace or starting a new job while nursing, check out our post on How to Tell Your Boss You're Pregnant, where I share some all-important pumping-at-work info.
Specific to Philadelphia, there are some special protections for women who need to pump milk in their place of work.
To begin, employers must "reasonably accommodate an individual's need to express breast milk."
What does this mean exactly? "Reasonable accommodations include providing unpaid break time or allowing an employee to use paid break, mealtime, or both, to express milk and providing a private, sanitary space that is not a bathroom where an employee can express breast milk, so long as these requirements do not impose an undue hardship… on an employer."
Let's break that down: Your employer has to allow you to pump milk. They can tell you to use your paid break time, or they can give you additional breaks that are unpaid, and they can ask you to use your lunch break for pumping. They have to give you a place to do it that's clean and private and isn't the bathroom.
The catch is that they're exempt if providing that space causes "undue hardship," which can include limitations to the space or financial resources of the employer. If you feel that your employer hasn't provided the necessary accommodations, you can file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Resources, and it's on your employer to prove undue hardship. If you're returning to work soon and making pumping plans, now as the time to talk to your employer about what you'll need when you return in terms of space and time to pump. Still pregnant? It's not too early to have that conversation now.
Lucky for lactating mamas, the Philly area has lots of resources to support you on your breastfeeding journey. The Breastfeeding Resource Center, with locations in Abington, Bensalem, and King of Prussia, provides breastfeeding support and guidance by International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), which is the gold standard for lactation support. They offer support group meetings, parenting classes, and face-to-face services accessible to all families, "regardless of economic means."
The BRC also maintains a list of breastfeeding-friendly employers who profess to support nursing and pumping mamas. You might be interested to find out if your employer is on the list, or add them if you know they're breastfeeding-friendly. Are you the boss? Add yourself to their list! They give regular shout-outs on social media.
The City of Philadelphia itself also maintains a support page providing information on the Maternity Care Coalition, Philadelphia WIC offices (which, if you don't know, can provide breast pumps and nursing help), local La Leche League chapters, and more. Find the city's page here.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia offers a Breastfeeding and Lactation Program, including milk bank services, pumping rooms, lactation consultants, and pump rentals.
Are you a local mama (or dad!) with Philly breastfeeding or pumping tips or information to share? Let us know in the comments how you get your milk on!
Kasey Phifer-Byrne is an English professor, poetry-writer, lactation consultant in training, and mom to one cat and one soon-to-be-born human. She teaches from home while balancing clinical hours for lactation support, preparing for new parenthood, and enjoying a good hike near her home outside of Philadelphia. Kasey is passionate about supporting breastfeeding mamas and advocating for family leave and work-life balance despite today's challenges to working parents.