When Jennifer Banuelos' daughter Olivia was born, she weighed just under 2 pounds. She was so little she couldn’t breastfeed. Banuelos rented a breast-pump and used it up to eight times a day so that Olivia could still get her milk. Bannuelos works at UC Davis in the Department of Nutrition and was able to work from home to help her keep pumping….but she says not everyone’s that lucky:
“Most people don’t have that option – especially if you’re working at a fast-food restaurant or at a store in the mall. Where are you going to go?”
Democratic Assemblyman Kevin De Leon has introduced two bills that he says will make it easier for moms in such jobs. The first would require businesses to give moms a paid break every four hours to pump breast milk. Current law says women must be given a “reasonable” amount of time, but De Leon says this would spell it out more clearly.
“Working mothers regardless of who they are or where they come from should not have to choose between earning a living or breast-feeding their babies.”
De Leon’s other measure would require insurance companies to cover the cost of breast pump rentals and lactation consultants – they help mothers learn how to breast-feed properly. De Leon says this would save health care costs later since breastfeeding reduces a babies’ risk for many health problems. Charles Bacchi is Interim President and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans. He says in general the group opposes state mandates like this because they drive up the price of premiums:
“Any time you have a new covered benefit, that cost for health plans ultimately ends up back for consumers when they purchase coverage.”
Bacchi says they haven’t yet taken a position on De Leon’s legislation specifically because they’re still reviewing it. He says some health care plans already cover lactation consultants.