Breastfeeding Support Program

Breastfeeding at Work and School

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for their baby’s first six months of life and continue breastfeeding through their baby’s first year of life.  AAP reports numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother.

An employee's right to express milk at work is protected by New York State Labor Law § 206-C (established in May 2008), which requires employers to allow working women to use unpaid break time or paid meal time to nurse their babies or express milk for up to three years after the birth of their child.  It also requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a space where an employee can express milk in privacy and prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee who exercises this right.  All departments are required to post this policy. Additionally, The Breastfeeding Bill of Rights is available for print in several languages through the New York State Department of Health website.

Additionally, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide breaks for nursing mothers, although New York State already had the related labor law in place. The Affordable Care Act also requires health insurance to provide coverage for breast pumps.  Contact your insurance provider or reach out to the Columbia Benefits Service Center for additional information on what is covered.

Recognizing the benefits of breastfeeding and in compliance with the law, Columbia University is committed to ensuring that the needs of lactating women are met and now offers a breastfeeding support program.   The breastfeeding support program is for mothers at Columbia returning to work, school, or visiting the campus who wish to express milk. 

About the Breastfeeding Support Program

The Breastfeeding Support Program, established in 2008, is essential to assisting faculty, staff, and students achieve their academic and career goals while meeting their childrens’ needs. The primary function is to ensure that lactating women, in particular those who do not regularly have access to private space, will be able to continue breastfeeding and carry on their studies or work. 


Breastfeeding Advisory Committee 

The Office of Work/Life would like to acknowledge the breastfeeding advisory committee for their contribution to the development of the breastfeeding support program:

  • Jeanne Brooks-Gunn: Adjunct professor in pediatrics; Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development and Education, Teachers College and College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University; Co-director, National Center for Children and Families; Co-director, Columbia University Institute for Child and Family Policy  
  • Wendy Chavkin: Special Lecturer; Former Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, and Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Physicians and Surgeons

  • Sarah Sheets Cooke, DNP, RN-CS: Former Vice Dean of School of Nursing
  • Laura Zeidenstein, DrNP, MSN, CNM: Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing and Director of Nurse-Midwifery Program

Program Details

The Breastfeeding Support Program includes:

  • Private lactation rooms throughout Columbia's campuses equipped with Medela Symphony Hospital-Grade Pumps
  • Breast pump accessories for lactation room users at a substantial discounted rate. Note: Breastfeeding equipment is eligible for reimbursement through a flexible spending account. Please read the specific eligibility requirements outlined by the IRS for more information.
  • Information on lactation consultants and support groups.
  • Educational materials and breastfeeding-related workshops on campus

Lactation Room Guidelines


Breastfeeding Mothers Returning to Work

Campus Lactation Rooms

Columbia University provides lactation rooms to support nursing mothers returning to work, school, or campus.  Each room offers a clean, secure, and private space for women who need to express breast milk during their time on campus.  All of the rooms are equipped with a table, chair, and lock from the inside; some contain refrigerators and sinks. If a sink is not in the room itself, there is one close by. If you use a room where a refrigerator is not provided, we recommend that you bring a cooler to store your breast milk. Additionally there are Medela hospital grade breast pumps provided in each room; accessories will need to be provided by each individual user and can be purchased from the Office Of Work/Life (details below). 

Women may access the lactation rooms only for the purposes of expressing, storing and collecting breast milk.   For more information on room locations and how to access, please visit this webpage.

Health and Safety

Columbia University is committed to establishing and maintaining a healthful and safe work environment for our faculty, staff and students.  While working at Columbia you may have varying health needs.  For example, if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant and/or nursing and are concerned about potential exposure to biological, chemical or radiological agents you should speak with your physician and may also contact the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). 

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