BATH – To adapt to Maine’s changing laws that protect working families, Bath Iron Works is installing two mobile pods designed to give nursing mothers a private, sanitary place to pump breast milk at work.

To be in compliance with Maine state law, an employer must provide a clean, private space, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to express breast milk for up to three years after childbirth.

The law, enacted in 2009, also states an employer must, “provide adequate unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time each day to express breast milk.”

In keeping up with changing laws, BIW is installing two mobile pods to provide nursing mothers with a clean, private place for working mothers to pump breastmilk. Contributed Photo

The lactation pods arrived in time for Maine’s legislature to adopt an amendment that protects pregnant women and new mothers who need workplace accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The amendment was first presented in February by Rep. Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth) and goes into effect today.

“The amendment provides clarity and standards of how an employer is expected to accommodate pregnant employees and new mothers,” said Carney.

Providing accommodation for working families also improves employee retention, which is significant in a state pining for both employees and young families, according to Carney.

Carney said prior to the amendment pregnant women were held to the same standards as all employees, which could become an issue if, for example, a mother needs more frequent breaks to pump breast milk.

The average new mother needs to pump breast milk every two to three hours, according to Abby Eagers, lactation consultant at Mid Coast Hospital.

“Providing moms with a clean and comfortable environment is essential to a baby’s health,” said Eagers “Babies have immature immune systems so providing a sanitary environment for their food is essential.”

Eagers said the younger a baby is, the more susceptible it is to harmful bacteria on bathroom surfaces. Some bacteria found in bathrooms can even be deadly to infants, according to Eagers.

Prior to installing BIW’s lactation pods, BIW Spokesperson David Hench said private spaces, such as a conference room, were dedicated to nursing mothers as needed.

“These new pods will allow us to expand on our commitment to support nursing mothers in the workplace,” said Hench.

Each new lactation pod at BIW was designed by Mamava and has a door lock, electrical outlets, interior lights, ceiling vents, and two benches. The standard unit is about 7 feet long, 7 feet tall, and 3.5 feet wide.

John Carr, spokesperson for Local S6, BIW’s largest union which covers 3,500 of BIW’s nearly 6,000 employees, said there are 272 women in the Local S6 union. Hench was unable to provide the total number of women in BIW’s workforce.

One of the two pods will be located at the shipyard in Bath and the other will be at BIW’s Brunswick facility off Church Road.

Other large Maine businesses have also sought to accommodate nursing mothers.

Carolyn Beem, a spokesperson for Freeport-based L.L. Bean, said the company has provided accommodations in each of its facilities for the past decade.

“We want to make the transition back to work for new mothers as easy as possible,” said Beem.

According to the company’s website, L.L. Bean employed about 5,200 year-round employees last year, but its workforce jumped to nearly 9,000 during the winter holidays.

Westbrook-based IDEXX provides 10 Mothers Rooms across its two Westbrook locations, which house one-third of the company’s workforce of 8,170. In order to unlock the rooms, special rights can be added to IDEXX ID badges of nursing mothers.

Rooms can be booked using the company’s standard conference room booking process. Rooms include refrigerators, sinks and a comfortable chair and are cleaned on a daily basis, according to IDEXX Spokesperson Izzy Forman.

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