Commissioner Lesley Briones champions nursing mothers with policy updates, Lactation pods donations

29 Feb, 24

New parents visiting court or heading back to work at Harris County will soon have three new areas to privately pump and feed their children, thanks to a donation approved by Harris County commissioners during their Feb. 27 meeting. 

These pods will provide nursing parents a safe, comfortable, and private place to pump or breastfeed their children when visiting court.  

The push for an increase of nursing spaces in public comes with a host of benefits. Breastfeeding has been shown to improve the health of both mother and child by lowering the chance of certain long-term illnesses.  

The three new Lactation pods will be located in the buildings housing the criminal justice court, civil courthouse, and jury assembly. The pods were donated by the Houston Bar Association after Commissioner Briones advocated for their addition.  

“As mothers, our babies usually go with us wherever we go – regardless if it’s convenient or not,” Commissioner Briones said. “These pods make it easier for anyone who is nursing and is visiting the courthouse to be able to feed their child.” 

The pods are expected to be installed in the coming months. While the pods are designated for visitors, Commissioners Court also approved new policy updates to protect nursing county employees. 

Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones championed the update to the Harris County policies and procedures, which now require not only a private space to pump but also that the space have an area to work, a sink, and a refrigerated place to store breast milk.  

“As a working mother of three daughters, I know what it is like to need a private, clean space to pump or nurse and not find one. It is painful, stressful, and uncomfortable.” Commissioner Briones said. “I am proud to have worked with our partners so that this will never have to be a problem new mothers face within Harris County courthouses.” 

The newly passed policies and procedures affect all of the more than 18,700 county employees — more than half of which are women. Previously, employees were allowed paid lactation breaks of up to 20 minutes. Now, employees will be offered more flexibility and two to three lactation breaks a day for the first year following the birth of their child.  

These protections go above and beyond the federal guidelines for nursing employees set in place by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act. The updates also align with the requirements to become a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite, which state that employers must provide the protections and accommodations nursing employees need to thrive. 

“We will continue building on this progress within Harris County buildings,” Commissioner Briones said. “We encourage all Harris County-based employers to join us by making their workplaces friendly to working parents.”