Contact: Cheryl Lebedevitch
Phone: 773-359-1549 x 21
Public Buildings Ensure Lactation Spaces for Visitor Use
USBC Applauds the Passage of the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 30, 2019
Chicago, IL -- The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) celebrates the passage of the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act. Signed into on Thursday, July 25, the act requires that certain public buildings that contain a public restroom also provide a lactation room, other than a bathroom, that is hygienic and available for use by a member of the public. This means that advocates and visitors to Capitol Hill, Senate and House office buildings, the Smithsonian buildings, courthouses, customshouses, and other federal facilities around the nation will have access to a clean, private lactation space.
A covered public building may be excluded from the requirement if the building does not contain a lactation room for employees who work in the building and does not have a room that could be repurposed as a lactation space at a reasonable cost; or if new construction would be required and the cost is unfeasible.
"As the national breastfeeding coalition in the United States, we are celebrating this passage as another step forward toward comprehensive breastfeeding support in our country. We've come a long way since 1916, when our first female elected official didn’t even have access to a women's restroom (and women didn’t get one on the first floor of the Capital until 1962!). For the first time in our Nation’s history nearly one quarter of Senators and Representatives identify as women and 25 Members of Congress are under the age of 40. Last year, Senator Duckworth became the first to give birth while serving on the U.S. Senate, mobilizing a movement to allow all Senators to bring their infant children onto the Senate floor during votes. And now, Members of Congress, staff, advocates, and visitors to DC will have access to a clean, private lactation space in federal buildings. Ensuring that caregivers are able to serve both their country and their families is a critical step toward ensuring that families are represented in policy arenas," says Amelia Psmythe, Interim Executive Director of the USBC.
Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act
Under current practice, federal agencies provide a designated, non-bathroom space for returning employees to pump breast milk during the work day. The Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act extends this requirement to include not just employees, but visitors to federal facilities. In Washington, D.C. alone, there are millions of tourists who visit federal facilities. There are also visitors to federal agencies and facilities for meetings and events around the nation that will benefit from the bill’s provisions. People who exclusively pump, chest feed, use a supplemental nutrition system (SNS), or simply prefer a private space will now have access to accommodations while utilizing federal facilities.
In addition, current federal law requires employers to provide nursing mothers who are nonexempt employees a private, non-bathroom location to express breast milk for one year after their child’s birth. Breastfeeding employees working in jobs that require travel (police officers, bus drivers, home health care workers, etc.) face some of the most challenging barriers to combining breastfeeding and employment. These employees frequently struggle to secure a clean, private space to pump during the work day. The provision of lactation spaces in federal facilities removes this barrier for many employees, and provides a ready solution to help employers remain in compliance with federal and state laws requiring workplace accommodations for breastfeeding employees.
Evidence and Benefits of Breastfeeding
The evidence for the value of breastfeeding to children's and women’s health is scientific, solid, and continually being reaffirmed by new research. Compared with formula-fed children, those who are breastfed have a reduced risk of ear, skin, stomach, and respiratory infections; diarrhea; sudden infant death syndrome; and necrotizing enterocolitis. In the longer term, breastfed children have a reduced risk of obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood leukemia. Women who breastfed their children have a reduced long-term risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancers.
Breastfeeding also provides a range of benefits for employers and society. A 2016 study of both maternal and pediatric health outcomes and associated costs based on 2014 breastfeeding rates showed that, if 90% of infants were breastfed according to medical recommendations, 2,600 maternal and child deaths, $2.4 billion in medical costs, and $10.8 billion in costs of premature death would be prevented, annually!
We know that 80% of mothers intend to breastfeed, and 83% actually do breastfeed at birth. Yet only 25% of U.S. infants are still exclusively breastfed at six months of age. Most families today choose to breastfeed, but a range of obstacles can make it difficult to fit breastfeeding into parents' lives. The Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act removes one more of those obstacles.
"No matter what they're doing or where they are, people who are lactating need to express milk every few hours, and the passage of the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act means that public spaces will be more lactation-friendly for working and traveling people. Breastfeeding in public is protected in all 50 states, and families are encouraged to nurse wherever and whenever they are comfortable. Lactation accommodation provisions such as the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act help to ensure that those who need or prefer a private space while visiting federal buildings, have access to one," says Mona Liza Hamlin, Chair of the USBC.
For more information about the benefits of breastfeeding refer to the US Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women's Health webpage.
The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is national nonprofit organization that works to "drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States," with a focus on the values of leadership, integrity, and inclusion. USBC is made up of over 100 member organizations, including federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and breastfeeding coalitions.