Lactation: Draft policy language for school districts

by Vincenzo Iuppa, MNEA associate general counsel

Public education employees planning a family can rely on a number of legal protections to help them try to balance their work and their personal life.

The Family Medical Leave Act provides protected leave for medical complications prior to the birth of the child and for bonding and care of the child after the birth.

The Affordable Care Act allows some nursing mothers to have protected time to express milk to support the health of their newborn child.

Unfortunately, the ACA protection only applied to a specific subset of public education employees, until recently. A 2021 change to Missouri law has greatly expanded who can take advantage of the time to express milk or breastfeed a child. Read more about the process to improve the protections in the article MNEA members advocate for breastfeeding protection (Something Better, summer 2021 ). 

Below is draft policy language that school districts can adopt to meet the legal requirements specified under the ACA, FMLA, and Missouri law. 

Reasonable Time to Express Milk at School

Employees and students shall be provided reasonable time to express milk while at school for at least one year and up to three years following the child's birth. Employees and students shall be provided no fewer than three opportunities every day to breastfeed a child, express milk, or address other needs related to breastfeeding at times agreed to by the district and individual. 

Employees should use the usual break, plan-time, and meal periods for expressing milk, when possible. If additional time is needed beyond the provided breaks, employees should contact their supervisor to discuss alternative arrangements. 

Students should contact their counselor, who will work with the student to address arrangements and create a schedule that results in the least amount of missed class time. When possible, students will be allowed to make up work missed because of absences authorized under this policy.

A Private Area for Milk Expression

Employees and students will be provided with a private place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from employees, students, or the public, to express breast milk. The room may be a designated space for lactation. If this is not practical or possible, a vacant office, conference room, or other small area may be used so long as it is not accessible or visible to other employees, students, or the public while the nursing individual is using the room to express milk. The room will:

  • Be in a location that can be conveniently accessed by the individual, when possible.
  • Have a door equipped with a functional lock or, if this is not possible, the room will have a sign advising that the room or location is in use and not accessible to other employees, students, or the public.
  • Be well lit and well ventilated.
  • Ensure privacy by covering any windows with a curtain, blind, or other covering.
  • Contain, or have close proximity to, a sink with running water and a refrigerator for storage of breast milk.
  • Contain, at a minimum, a chair, a small table, counter, or other flat surface, and conveniently placed electrical outlets.

No employee or student shall be discriminated against for breastfeeding or expressing milk during the school day, and reasonable efforts will be made to assist employees and students in meeting their infant feeding goals while at school.

Any act found to be intentional that invades a nursing mother's privacy will be subject to disciplinary action. (See also anti-discrimination policies and or procedures for sexual harassment and disabilities).

Employer Responsibilities

The district will:

  • Maintain the cleanliness of the room or location set aside for the use of employees expressing breastmilk at work.
  • Notify employees and students returning to school following the birth of a child of their rights under this policy.
  • Ensure the safekeeping of expressed breast milk stored in any refrigerator on the premises.

Employee and Student Responsibilities

Breastfeeding employees and students utilizing lactation support services will:

  • Give the district advance notice of the need for lactation accommodations, preferably prior to their return to school following the birth of the child. This will allow the district the opportunity to establish a location and work out scheduling issues.
  • Maintain the designated area by wiping surfaces with microbial wipes, provided by the district, so the area is clean for the next user.