Breast-feeding Discrimination - Definition and Explanation

Breast-feeding Discrimination – Definition and Explanation

Breast-feeding Discrimination

Breast-feeding Discrimination in the Workplace: Understanding and Addressing

Breast-feeding discrimination in the workplace refers to any unfair treatment or adverse actions taken against employees who choose to breastfeed or express milk while at work. This type of discrimination violates the rights of nursing mothers and undermines efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

Understanding Breast-feeding Discrimination:

Despite advancements in workplace policies and laws protecting the rights of nursing mothers, instances of breast-feeding discrimination still persist. This discrimination can manifest in various forms, including:

  • Refusal to Provide Accommodations: Some employers may fail to provide adequate facilities or break times for nursing mothers to express milk.
  • Negative Comments or Attitudes: Nursing mothers may face stigma or negative comments from colleagues or supervisors regarding their choice to breastfeed or express milk at work.
  • Demotion or Termination: In extreme cases, nursing mothers may experience demotion, termination, or other adverse employment actions due to their need to breastfeed or express milk during work hours.

Addressing Breast-feeding Discrimination:

To combat breast-feeding discrimination in the workplace, employers can take proactive measures to create a supportive and inclusive environment for nursing mothers. This includes:

  • Implementing Policies: Employers should establish clear policies that outline the rights of nursing mothers, including provisions for lactation breaks and suitable facilities for expressing milk.
  • Providing Education and Training: Training sessions can raise awareness among employees about the importance of supporting nursing mothers and dispel misconceptions surrounding breast-feeding in the workplace.
  • Fostering a Supportive Culture: Cultivating a culture of inclusivity and support can encourage open dialogue and understanding among employees, reducing the likelihood of discriminatory behavior towards nursing mothers.


In a recent case in the UK, a nursing mother working in a retail store faced discrimination when her employer refused to provide her with a private space to express milk during her shifts. Despite her repeated requests for accommodations, she was met with resistance from management, who claimed it was not their responsibility to accommodate her needs. As a result, the employee was forced to express milk in unsanitary conditions, causing emotional distress and impacting her overall well-being.


Breast-feeding discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that undermines efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. By implementing supportive policies, providing education, and fostering a culture of inclusivity, employers can create environments where nursing mothers feel respected and valued, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and welcoming workplace for all.


Smith, J. P., Javanparast, S., McIntyre, E., Craig, L., Mortensen, K., & Koh, C. (2013). Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers in childcare. Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 16(1), 65-90.

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