MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new study out of the University of Minnesota found that more than half of breastfeeding mothers don’t have access to workplace accommodations to feed their children while on the job.

The study from the university’s School of Public Health was published Tuesday in Women’s Health Issues.

An examination of answers from a national survey found that women who have access to workplace accommodations were more than twice as likely than those without to exclusively breastfeed their children for 6 months, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented,” said Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, the lead author of the study, in a statement. “Unfortunately, many mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding when they return to work encounter logistical challenges.”

According to the university, researchers found that:

– 59 percent of breastfeeding women who returned to work had access to adequate break time,
– 45 percent of breastfeeding women who returned to work had private space (not a bathroom) to express milk,
– 40 percent of breastfeeding women who returned to work had access to both adequate break time and space.

The survey researchers examined was called Listening to Mothers III, which documented the responses of 2,400 women who gave birth between 2011 and 2012.

That survey was the first national look at workplace accommodations for breastfeeding mothers since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which required all employers with more than 50 employees to give new mothers break time and breastfeeding accommodations.

“Our findings suggest that compliance with this regulation may be lacking, which may have real consequences for women and families,” Kozhimannil said.

The study’s authors note that if the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are followed by employers, it’ll likely benefit low-income families and single mothers – the groups that are least likely, researchers say, to have access to workplace support for breastfeeding.

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