Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed Intro. 1063-A, which requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Social Services to make a lactation room available at a number of locations that serve members of the public. This bill ensures that new mothers seeking City services will have easy access to spaces where they can privately express milk. New York City is one of the first cities in the nation to provide this type of service to visitors of city facilities. This bill further solidifies New York City as a national leader in improving the health of women and girls and promoting gender equity.
“With the signing of this bill we mark a giant step forward for mothers and babies across NYC. Breastfeeding is a natural, normal human function, which has many proven health benefits. But finding the space to do it can be much too difficult for new mothers. 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 First Lady Chirlane McCray, Honorary Chair of the Commission on Gender Equity. “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. On behalf of mothers throughout the city, I am so grateful to everyone who helped us achieve this victory for women and gender equity.”
“This legislation reinforces a woman’s right to breastfeed in public while also creating safe, hygienic, and private spaces where women can breastfeed or lactate comfortably,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Too often, the needs of breastfeeding women are overlooked or even stigmatized. By mandating publicly accessible lactations rooms at a wide variety of city facilities, our City is helping mothers, families, and our youngest New Yorkers get a healthy start. I thank Council Members Cornegy, Cumbo, and Johnson, as well as Brooklyn Borough Presidents Adams, for their staunch advocacy around this important issue.”
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. Intro. 1063-A addresses these 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 any public place.
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. 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.