USBC News & Blogs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 24, 2022
Washington, DC -- In an historic week of bipartisan action on behalf of working families, Congress passed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act (S. 1658/H.R. 3110) as part of the omnibus spending package.
The PUMP Act represents significant progress toward closing coverage gaps left from the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which gave employees a right to reasonable break time and a private place to pump breast milk during the workday. Nearly 9 million women — one in four women of childbearing age — were excluded from coverage under the 2010 law. Those left unprotected included teachers, software engineers, farmworkers, and many nurses, among others.
Advocates have been going back every session since to address this shortfall. The bill is on the way to the President’s desk — which he is expected to sign — and will also ensure that employees whose rights are violated have access to remedies that are available for other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
This critical and measured bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Merkley (D-OR), Murkowski (R-AK), Booker (D-NJ), Casey (D-PA), and Duckworth (D-IL). The PUMP Act was passed in the Senate as an amendment to the omnibus spending package on Thursday, December 22, with a near-unanimous vote of 92-5.
The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by longtime champion Representative Maloney (D-NY-12), Maternity Care Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-3) and Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), and Black Maternal Health Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Underwood (D-IL-14) and Adams (D-NC-12). The PUMP Act passed in the House in October 2021 with a bipartisan vote of 276-149.
Support for the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act is widespread. The bill received strong support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, National Education Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and more than 230 additional organizations.
While the PUMP Act is a tremendous victory for working families, it still lacks critical protections for flight attendants and pilots due to unrelenting opposition from the airline industry. Because pumping breast milk can be, and in many cases already is, done safely aboard aircraft during non-critical phases of flight, breastfeeding advocates remain committed to securing this important right for airline crewmembers.
The following are statements from representatives of the leading organizations advocating for passage of the bill:
“Millions of women and babies just got a holiday gift from Congress — reasonable workplace accommodations for breast milk expression. We are thrilled to see the PUMP Act become the law of the land, easing the way for those taking on the big physical work of nurturing and nourishing the next generation,” said Amelia Psmythe Seger, Deputy Director, U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. “We are deeply grateful to the tireless PUMP Act champions, Senators Merkley and Murkowski, and Representatives Maloney and Herrera-Beutler, and to all the legislators who demonstrated their capacity to unite in service of infant nutrition security.”
“The PUMP Act is the first standalone breastfeeding bill to receive a recorded vote on the House and Senate floors. The bill received incredible support from policymakers on both sides of the aisle, demonstrating that breastfeeding is truly a bipartisan issue,” said Cheryl Lebedevitch, Senior Policy and Communications Manager, at the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. “We just made history, together! We are eternally grateful to the USBC-affiliated Workplace Support Constellation, the myriad USBC supporters who have taken action across the years on this important legislation, and to our partners at A Better Balance, the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for WorkLife Law, MomsRising, and National WIC Association who have stewarded this bill through the Congressional process all these months.”
“With Congress's passage of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, millions more nursing parents will now have the right to break time and space to pump at work and the ability to meaningfully vindicate their rights when violated,” said Sarah Brafman, National Policy Director, A Better Balance. “The near-unanimous support for this legislation in the Senate indicates that support for breastfeeding workers transcends partisanship. We thank our PUMP Act legislative champions Senators Jeff Merkley and Lisa Murkowski and Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jamie Herrera Buetler, our coalition partners who never gave up on getting these protections over the finish line, and the women we serve who shared their experiences of being forced to choose between breastfeeding and working and were the catalyst for change. We look forward to President Biden signing the PUMP Act into law."
"For far too long, millions of women experienced or endured the threat of discrimination, termination, or being left without options when they tried to pump breast milk at work. No more,” said Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel, at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After years of advocacy by individuals and organizations across the political spectrum, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act will become law and safeguard the health and economic security of workers and families. We applaud our congressional champions who never gave up on the women and workers who desperately needed relief.”
“Today our elected representatives sent the powerful message that mothers matter. Their health and the health of their children matter. This historic legislation will make a significant difference in the lives of mothers and families on day one,” said Center for WorkLife Law Deputy Director, Liz Morris. "While most workplaces will support breastfeeding workers and comply with federal law, employers should be aware of the new enforcement provisions that apply when a nursing employee's rights are violated."
“The passing of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act is life-changing for moms, babies, and families across the country, particularly for low-income women and women of color. We know that while four out of five mothers start out breastfeeding, less than half continue past six months postpartum and one of the main barriers is the lack of break time and a private place to pump in the workplace,” said Tina Sherman, Senior Campaign Director for Maternal Justice, MomsRising. “We are grateful for the tireless advocacy of our legislative champions in helping to remove this barrier for pumping workers.”
"WIC providers know that breastfeeding success requires comprehensive support, and workplace policies can be critical factors impacting breastfeeding duration. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act expands protections for millions of lactating workers, serving the dual goal of building job security for new moms while promoting optimal infant nutrition," said Dr. Jamila Taylor, President & CEO of the National WIC Association. "After over a decade of advocacy and harrowing challenges to infant nutrition over this past year, this long overdue legislation is an important step forward in a national effort to improve breastfeeding rates and close disparities so that every mother and baby has the support and resources they need to grow and thrive."
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a proposal for changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages. The WIC program provides supplemental nutrition services to pregnant and postpartum women and children from birth to age five, serving nearly half of infants born in the U.S.
Why Are the WIC Food Packages Changing?
By law, WIC food packages are reevaluated through a comprehensive scientific review at least every ten years to ensure they remain aligned with nutrition science, public health concerns, and cultural eating patterns.
The proposed changes are intended to provide:
Learn more about the history of WIC food packages.
What is the Process for WIC Food Package Changes?
FNS tasked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) – then called the Institute of Medicine – with issuing recommendations on the WIC food packages. NASEM was tasked with recommending updated food packages that were cost-neutral with the current food packages, which means that any increases in the costs of components of the packages or allowed substitutions had to be balanced by corresponding decreases in costs elsewhere. In 2017, NASEM published its recommendations in the “Review of WIC Food Packages: Improving Balance and Choice: Final Report.”
FNS policy experts considered the NASEM report alongside a range of other sources, including an independent review of the current WIC food packages and of the nutritional needs of those eligible for WIC; the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for America, which included new recommendations specifically for women who are pregnant, infants, and children under age 2 years; WIC redemption data; feedback from WIC participants, state and tribal partners, and other government agencies; and beyond. Taking all of this together, the FNS developed and released the “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Revisions in the WIC Food Packages” proposal in the Federal Register.
This is a proposal, not an implementation change that is already approved. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit written comments on the proposal by February 21, 2023. Once the comment period closes, FNS will use the submitted feedback to update their proposal and develop it into a final rule. FNS proposed that State agencies would have 18 months from the final rule's publication to implement the rule’s provisions.
What Does the NASEM Report Say About Lactation Outcomes?
The current program requires clients to select either the fully formula feeding or fully breastfeeding package during the first thirty days postpartum. After this thirty-day period, a partially breastfeeding package also becomes available. Public health experts and breastfeeding advocates thought that this would limit the risk of early supplementation, which can interfere with milk production, and result in increased breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC families. Instead, the NASEM report found that this provision resulted in more women selecting the fully formula-feeding package.
As a result, NASEM now recommends that following a detailed assessment of the needs of the dyad by WIC staff, women should be permitted to receive the quantity of formula they need to support their desired level of breastfeeding, without waiting 30 days.
How Would Breastfeeding Packages Change Under This Proposal?
The proposed changes strengthen support for moms and babies across a wider range of breastfeeding options so that breastfeeding is not an all or nothing choice. The proposed rule creates a separate and enhanced food package specifically for mothers who are mostly, but not exclusively, breastfeeding to align with their higher calorie needs. The rule also proposes adding canned fish and higher benefits for purchasing fruits and vegetables to all breastfeeding food packages, and adds flexibility to the amount of formula provided for partially breastfed infants to better support individual breastfeeding goals.
How is the USBC Staff Seeing This Proposal?
The USBC staff is looking closely at the WIC food package proposal and closely considering what it could mean for the families and communities we serve.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the infant formula shortage have clearly demonstrated that our nation lacks the infrastructure needed to comprehensively protect and support infant nutrition security. Maternity care practices that hinder the establishment of breastfeeding are far too common. The majority of families do not have access to paid family and medical leave and many struggle to pump at work. Race and zip code significantly impact access to healthy foods and quality health care.
Given all that moms and parents are up against, it is critical that we recognize the reality and meet them where they are. Whether they are exclusively or partially human milk feeding, directly breastfeeding or pumping, parents and babies need and deserve our support. We are optimistic that this proposal from USDA would be a positive step forward.
How to Share Feedback on the Proposal
To respond to the public comment opportunity, visit the Federal Register webpage and select “Submit a Formal Comment.” Responding to public comment opportunities is not lobbying. The federal government is actively soliciting input to inform its decision-making, but comments will not be accepted after Tuesday, February 21.
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