To ensure nursing mothers have a safe place to breastfeed when they’re in public, a measure sponsored by Assemblywomen Eliana Pintor Marin, Gabriela Mosquera and Carol Murphy to provide lactation rooms in certain public facilities passed the full Assembly on Thursday, 76-0.
“While women should be able to nurse their babies publicly, some women prefer to do it in a more quiet setting,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “This would provide women with the convenience of a private room at a public facility where they can nurse and still be able to accomplish their task.”
The bill (A-1663) would require certain public facilities to make at least one lactation room available upon request to any mother utilizing on-site services, including any:
- health care facility;
- federally qualified health center;
- county or municipal welfare office or agency;
- Medical Assistance Customer Center (MACC);
- One-Stop Career Center operated by or under the authority of, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development;
- adoption agency or center operated by or under the authority of, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families;
- foster care agency contracted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency; or
- local office of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency
The presence of any such lactation room would not abrogate or otherwise limit the mother’s right to breast feed her baby in public, as provided by existing law.
“The benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers are well documented. While some women are comfortable nursing in public, others are not,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This would provide a quiet place for mothers to nurse their babies while they take care of business.”
The bill would require the Department of Health (DOH) to create signage that contains information about breastfeeding, affirms a mother’s right to nurse in public and indicates that lactation rooms are available for the privacy and comfort of nursing mothers.
The signage must be distributed directly to the facilities identified in the bill, and posted in a printable format on the department’s website. A facility required to provide a lactation room must to display the signage in a clear and conspicuous manner in its public waiting room and any lactation room.
“New mothers shouldn’t have to worry about finding a place to privately breastfeed their babies while running errands or going about their day,” said Murphy. “The early days of motherhood are hard enough. This bill will make those days a bit easier for nursing mothers.”
The DOH would be required to establish and post on its website a list of all facilities that have lactation rooms. The list would be regularly updated to provide the most current availability.
Additionally, the measure would require the Department of Education (DOE) to annually report to the Governor and Legislature on the lactation-related policies that have been implemented at schools, colleges, and universities in the state. Each annual report would summarize the applicable policies in this area, indicate the number and percentage of policies that authorize access to a designated lactation room; and address how were communicated to students, parents, and guardians during the preceding school year. Each report would be posted at a publicly-accessible location on the DOE’s website.
The bill was now heads to the Senate for further consideration.