Texas Observer – August 31, 2015
by Alexa Garcia-Ditta
A new law set to take effect September 1 will make it easier for Texas moms like Sarah Kuttesch, a public school teacher, to pump breast milk at work.
Kuttesch, who’s been teaching in Texas for a decade and lives in San Antonio, told the Observer she struggled to find a place to pump when she returned to work after having each of her four children, now aged 8, 6, 3 and 1. While breastfeeding her first child, Kuttesch pumped standing up in a single-occupant restroom. With her second child, she stopped breastfeeding earlier than she wanted to because of the difficulties she had while pumping at work.
She also pumped in her classroom and even in a closet, where janitors would sometimes walk in on her.
Alice Bufkin, policy associate at Texans Care for Children, said the new law not only promotes breastfeeding but also ensures nursing mothers, buoyed by an accommodating work environment, can continue doing so for as long as they choose.
"This new law will make sure that more babies will get off to a healthy start in life,” she said. "It’s incredibly important that we have workplaces that are supportive of moms and their decisions to breastfeed.”
Specifically, HB 786 requires employers to provide a space that is "shielded from view” and "free from intrusion” for mothers to pump. It also allows employers to designate a single-occupant restroom, but not a multi-occupant restroom, as a pumping space. Senator Van Taylor, R-Plano, added the restroom pumping language as a floor amendment in the final days of the legislative session, his staff told the Observer, as a way to shore up more support in the upper chamber.
Walle and some of the bill’s supporters said they were frustrated by Taylor’s last-minute change, arguing any type of restroom, whether single- or multi-use, is an unsanitary place to pump breastmilk. But they saw the amendment as a tough concession necessary for passage.