A little-discussed nugget of law tucked into the federal health care reform act directs businesses that have more than 50 employees to give lactating mothers a private space in which to pump milk or breastfeed, as well as a “reasonable” amount of (unpaid) time to do so.

This Free Press article forwarded to me this morning discusses it in more detail, and got me reminiscing about all the gross places in which I struggled to pump milk for the short six weeks I breast-fed my newborn baby girl.

Bathrooms, mostly. I was struggling to wrap up my journalism degree at the time, and if the University of Montana had a dedicated lactation room, I was not aware of it. I was also working at the Kaimin, and have fond memories of sitting with my back against the door (because it didn’t lock) of the old editor’s office – a room so filthy I had to scrape what looked like crusty old macaroni and cheese off the windows just to get a little natural light – praying no one would barge in.

The article also got me looking around the Missoulian, pondering places I might pump if I were lactating now. Hmm. Looks like the bathroom again.

Which brings me to my favorite quote from the article. Here’s what Michigan Breastfeeding Network cochair and Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrican Rosemary Shy had to say about breastfeeding in bathrooms: “I want every employer who says (pump in a bathroom) to be forced to eat his lunch in the bathroom for a month.”

The law creates a lot of questions – how will this work for non-office staff? – and will no doubt lead to many more as the details are hashed out. But I think it’s a positive thing that the nation is acknowledging its lactating labor force at all, and I, for one, welcome the long overdue discussion.

– MM