Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Thursday, Intro. 1063-A, which requires city-run social service agencies to make lactation rooms available at locations throughout the city.
The bill ensures that new mothers seeking city services will have easy access to spaces where they can privately express milk. Lactation rooms created under this legislation must not be a bathroom — they must be a separate, private space properly outfitted with an electrical outlet, a chair, and nearby access to running water.
“This bill is about fairness, access, and health – no new mother should be unable to breastfeed because she can’t find a private space. This bill takes our city one step towards being a place where all women feel comfortable breastfeeding whenever they need to, wherever they need to,” said de Blasio.
New York City is one of the first cities in the nation to provide this type of service to visitors of city facilities. These rooms will be available whenever practicable in Department of Health and Mental Hygiene health centers, city-owned borough offices of the Administration for Children’s Services, as well as the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center, job centers, SNAP centers and medical assistance program centers run by the Department of Social Services. DOHMH will publish an easily accessible poster informing the public about lactation rooms in these buildings.
This bill also requires the Department of Education to submit an annual report summarizing its policies for providing lactation rooms to students and their parents and guardians in New York City public schools.
First lady Chirlane McCray, who is also the honorary chair of the City’s Commission on Gender Equity, said this legislation goes a long towards making the city more equitable for women and children.
“I personally know what it’s like to be a working mom, peeking my head into empty offices, wondering whether a room would remain unused long enough for me to pump. No one should suffer that indignity or inconvenience to nourish their child,” said the first lady. “Today we make it a little easier for working mothers while chipping away at the embarrassment that too often surrounds a practice as old as humanity itself.”
“We hear over and over that moms wanting to breastfeed and pump are doing so in sub-par and dirty locations,” said Susan Fox, Founder of Park Slope Parents. “Being able to feed your baby without being chained to your home is important on so many levels. This bill will help to not only create healthier babies but will also help the mental health of our moms.”
There are numerous health benefits of breastfeeding, including lower rates of respiratory problems and ear infections in breastfed babies and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers for mothers who breastfeed. Still, many women who wish to continue breastfeeding face barriers, and this new law addresses some of those barriers by making a lactation space available to members of the public in many city agencies. This bill does not interfere with the already protected right of a mother to breastfeed in a public place.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who advocated for the legislation sponsored by Council Members Cornegy, Laurie Cumbo, and Corey Johnson, said at yesterday’s bill signing, “It is particularly impactful that this bill signing ceremony is occurring in the People’s House, better known as Brooklyn Borough Hall; this is the building where Intro. 1063-A was first conceived and where we opened our Lactation Lounge, a space for nursing moms to enjoy a safe, comfortable, and hygienic environment to bond with their babies, last Mother’s Day. No breastfeeding mother should need to sit in a bathroom stall to find an electrical outlet or privacy, and the implementation of this law will ensure that doesn’t have to be the case.”