Breastfeeding Legislative Efforts
Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011
Federal law currently requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom place for nursing mothers to express breast milk, for one year after the child’s birth. Yet this provision only applies to “nonexempt employees”, and it does not protect lactation mothers from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace. Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia also have legislation to support breastfeeding in the workplace.
On August 1, 2011, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Carolyn B Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011 in both houses of Congress. The bill (H.R. 2758, S. 1463) includes two provisions:
- Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.
- Protects breastfeeding mothers by ensuring that executive, administrative, and professional employees, including elementary and secondary school teachers (in addition to non-exempt employees covered by the previous amendment) have break time and a private place to pump in the workplace.
For further details on this bill and other national advocacy issues, see the United States Breastfeeding Committee Advocacy HQ page.
Why this is important:
If half the babies born in the US were exclusively breastfed the first six months of life as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, we would save $14 billion in health care costs related to illness preventable by breastfeeding. We haven’t really done health care reform until we’ve protected infant health.
Why this makes a real difference to families:
The fastest-growing segment of the US workforce is women with children under three. The current economic climate is accelerating that. Breastfeeding makes a substantial difference for women and children’s health over a lifetime, but is often interrupted by return to work. If we’re to have any hope of more babies being breastfed, we need to decide on a strategy that addresses workplace conditions and related issues. The Breastfeeding Promotion Act touches every aspect of the environment where parents are making infant feeding decisions.