Build Your Program FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about creating and managing a Mother-Friendly Worksite program.
- Finding space is difficult in our worksite. Can we be designated as "Mother-Friendly" without a permanent, dedicated lactation room?
Yes. The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite program requires participating businesses to maintain employee policies that provide breastfeeding employees a private, accessible area, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, for either expressing breastmilk or breastfeeding each time the employee has the need to express breastmilk or to breastfeed.
However, a permanent, dedicated lactation room is not required in order to be eligible for designation as a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite. If a permanent, dedicated lactation space is not available, another space, such as a space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or breastfeeding, or a space that also serves another purpose, may be provided. Find ideas about how to provide space when space is limited.
Texas Administrative Code defines the criteria related to space for worksites seeking the Silver- or Gold-Level Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite designation.
- The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite program requires access to a nearby clean, safe water source that includes a sink for washing hands and any needed breast-pumping equipment. Does that mean the sink has to be in the lactation space?
No. Though surveys show that both lactating employees and their co-workers often prefer that a sink other than a restroom sink be provided for the cleaning of breast-pump equipment, this is not required. If a sink is not located in the lactation space, one may be located in a nearby break area, restroom, or other area that is accessible and within a short walking distance of the lactation space. Efforts to minimize travel time to and from the sink should be made when planning the lactation space, and travel time should be considered when developing flexible scheduling arrangements.
Locations without plumbing, such as on a construction site or other field setting, may meet this requirement by making a "camp" sink and a clean, potable water source available. The employer may also consider providing hand sanitizer and breast-pump accessory wipes to further support hygienic conditions.
- Our worksite provides a space and time for employees to express breastmilk or breastfeed during the workday. Is a written policy needed to be eligible for the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite designation?
Yes. Texas Administrative Code defines a Mother-Friendly business as "a worksite that actively promotes and supports breastfeeding by its employees and that maintains a written worksite lactation support policy that is regularly communicated to employees." Texas Health and Safety Code 165, Breastfeeding, allows designation of businesses as Texas "Mother-Friendly" if they have a policy "supporting the practice of worksite breastfeeding" by providing work schedule flexibility; accessible locations allowing privacy, access to a clean, safe water source, and a sink; and hygienic breastmilk storage alternatives.
While accommodations such as flexible scheduling and space provide the basic mechanisms that a nursing mother must have to successfully combine work and breastfeeding, a written and communicated policy confirms the expectations and sets the tone for an environment that consistently supports breastfeeding employees who want to use these accommodations. Well-written and maintained policies:
- Specify minimum standards for the rights, responsibilities, and expectations related to the employee worksite lactation program.
- Provide a basis to guide the actions of employees affected by the policy, including program users, their managers, and their co-workers.
- What is meant by providing "flexible scheduling"?
In order for new mothers to continue to provide breastmilk to their children after returning to work, reasonable break time and a private, clean space is needed to express breastmilk or breastfeed during the work day.
To qualify for the voluntary "Mother-Friendly" designation from the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite program, an employer must provide work-schedule and work-pattern flexibility to, at a minimum, accommodate reasonable break time for an employee to breastfeed or express breastmilk for her nursing child, each time she has the need to express milk or breastfeed, for one year or longer after the child's birth. There is no requirement for employers to provide paid break time over and above the usually provided breaks for the purpose of milk expression.
If an employer does not provide paid time for milk-expression breaks, the employer who wishes to receive the Mother-Friendly designation may instead provide flexible scheduling to accommodate the employee's lactation breaks without negatively affecting her take-home pay, leave balances, or other benefits. Flexible scheduling includes permitting an employee to creatively combine existing breaks (e.g., combining rest breaks, splitting meal breaks, etc.) and/or adapting their work schedules (e.g., coming in early or leaving late) to make up the time used for milk-expression breaks.
In addition to flexible scheduling for breaks, some employers provide employees the choice to continue working while expressing breastmilk, rather than being relieved from duties while taking a break. This arrangement can be accommodated in an employee's private office or by providing a computer, phone, or other job tool in the lactation space. Some employers have reduced the need for employees to take milk-expression breaks by creating conditions that allow a mother and baby to be in direct contact for breastfeeding throughout the workday, such as baby-at-work, work-from-home, or onsite childcare arrangements.
Specific milk expression break needs will vary from employee to employee. A simple conversation made in good faith between an employee and a supervisor, manager, or human resources representative about the employee's needs related to expressing breastmilk will help the employer determine what adjustments or arrangements are needed to best support the employee.
- Are any special precautions needed related to storing breastmilk at the worksite?
To qualify for the "Mother-Friendly" designation through the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite program, the worksite's employee breastfeeding support policy must provide access to a safe, clean place - a climate-controlled area that is free from toxins or other hazardous exposures - for employees to store breastmilk during the workday.
Conditions that allow for hygienic storage of breastmilk are similar to conditions needed for hygienic storage of other foods. Arrangements can include access to a refrigerator dedicated to the purpose of storing breastmilk, a shared refrigerator space near the employee's work area, or an insulated cooler with ice pack (either the employee's own cooler or one provided by the employer for the employee's use). Just as when handling other foods, care should be taken to avoid contact between the storage container and unclean surfaces. For this reason, it is suggested that employees place the milk storage container into a separate, clean container (e.g., a paper or plastic sack) before storing it in a shared area, such as a break-room refrigerator.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention17Â classifies breastmilk as a food, not a body fluid, and for the purposes of occupational exposure, the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration18Â does not include breastmilk as a potentially infectious material. Therefore, universal-and not special-precautions are sufficient for occupational safety purposes.
Â Best used within Still safe to use within Insulated cooler bag 24 hours 24 hours Refrigerator 3 days 5 days Freezer section inside a refrigerator 2 weeks 2 weeks Freezer with a separate door or deep freezer 6 months 12 months
Break Time for Nursing Mothers
Frequently asked questions about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act are available from the U.S. Department of Labor.
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The City of San Antonio recognizes a mother's responsibility to both her job and her child.
Bravo to every employer who's become a designated Mother-Friendly Worksite! I hope employers all over TX do it.