Work Life Balance

The EU Demands Daily Two Hour Pumping Breaks For Breastfeeding Mothers

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Remember the Colorado teacher who was fired for needing to take one hour a week to pump after she returned from maternity leave? Well she needs to move to Europe as soon as possible. The EU just proposed a set of guidelines regarding new mothers that has my American uterus swooning. Here’s a quick recap from The Daily Mail of just how awesome the new rules are:

  • Every mother who returns to work full-time must be allowed ‘breastfeeding breaks’ of two hours every day. - There is no cap on these breaks, which means they could continue for years if the woman decides to breastfeed beyond the traditional period.
  • Mothers will have an ‘absolute right’ to a flexible job and will be entitled to work part-time for up to one year after they return to work.
  • No boss will be able to force a woman to do a night shift or overtime in the ten weeks before her baby is born or during the breastfeeding period.
  • Mothers will get full pay for the first 20 weeks of maternity leave. They currently get 90 per cent of their salary for six weeks, followed by £128.73 a week for the next 33 weeks.
  • It will also be compulsory to have at least six weeks off after giving birth, compared with two at the moment.
  • Fathers would see paternity pay increased to two weeks’ on full pay. At present, they receive £128.73 a week for a fortnight.


Obviously, every country in the EU has to be prepared to make a large commitment to new mothers. This proposal is not a cheap one. The British Chamber of Commerce estimates that the guidelines would cost their country $2.5 billion to implement and maintain. However, the EU believes that maternal health and child welfare outweigh the cost.

Unsurprisingly, there’s strong opposition to the measure from businesses, with some of them arguing that the measure will simply discourage companies from hiring women of childbearing age. One of the industry spokesman asked, “Why bother working part-time, when you could get a full-time salary but hardly need to be at work because you’re always breastfeeding?” I’m guessing this man has never pumped at work because he seems to be confused with how it works.

The EU is proposing breaks that total two hours, whether its four half-hour breaks throughout your day or eight fifteen-minute breaks. This isn’t paid time off where moms are lounging around at home. The women are still at work, they are merely taking a break to express milk. The breaks will make it easier for working mothers to continue with a normal breastfeeding schedule they would have at home. It will guarantee that they don’t lose their milk supply because they can’t pump often enough.

Guidelines as mom-friendly as these might not be cheap, but they would definitely make it easier for women to return to work after having a child. As a US citizen, all I can hope is that Europe leads the way for more support and understanding in our own country.