Attention pregnant and nursing mothers: It's about to get a little easier to find a clean spot to pump privately or breastfeed in peace in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio just signed legislation, which was passed unanimously by the City Council, requiring a host of city agencies to offer lactation rooms to nursing mothers across the five boroughs by July 1, 2017.
The bill, sponsored by Brooklyn City Councilman Robert Cornegy, doesn't change New Yorkers right to breastfeed in any public space. Instead, it acknowledges that sometimes finding a comfortable spot to nurse or pump milk is a serious challenge. Anything that offers an alternative to the dreaded bathroom stall is a win-win in our book. Read on for more details about this new law impacting NYC parents.
The lactation rooms created under the new law must be a private space, and include access to electricity (crucial for pumping breast milk with an electric pump!), a chair, and nearby running water (also key for cleaning those pump parts!)—and lactation rooms cannot be in a bathroom. Thanks! The rooms will be set up at city agencies like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene health centers, Children's Services offices, Social Services offices, job centers, SNAP centers, and Medicaid offices. Dozens are expected to be available by next summer, according to de Blasio's office. The law is aimed at supporting moms visiting these agencies, so some of the rooms will be reserved for those seeking services. Others, like those at the health centers, will be open to all. (Note: Local courts are not covered under the law.)
"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,” the mayor said in a statement upon signing the bill into law Thursday, August. 11. His wife's statement was more blunt:
"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," read Chirlane McCray, first lady and 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."
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In addition, the bill requires the Department of Education to submit an annual report on the availability of lactation rooms at its facilities, which should serve students as well as their parents and guardians.
Once the program is fully up and running, nursing mothers will be able to access a list of all lactation rooms on the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's website; posters will also be displayed in buildings with lactation rooms indicating their availability. Though the main goal is to provide comfortable, clean, private spaces for mothers who need city services to feed their children, many of the sites will be open to any mother seeking a space to feed her baby or express milk. And for those who have traipsed across the city with their pump or babe in tow, you know that looking for a comfy spot sometimes feels impossible.
Another development for city-based nursing moms we noticed recently was the sudden jump in milk donation locations. Part of the Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast, there are now three "milk depots" within city limits. Milk depots are located at the Brooklyn Birthing Center and Hope and Healing Family Center in Brooklyn, as well as the Explore + Discover Early Learning Center in Manhattan. Milk is then transported to Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast where it is pasteurized and processed before being distributed to infants in need. Infants can only receive donor milk with a medical prescription; in many cases these newborns are hospitalized or have high medical need for the nutrients and natural health benefits only found in human breast milk.
For more information on the Milk Bank of the Northeast or to learn about its donor screening process, visit its website.
Photo: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signs law creating new lactation rooms for NYC moms. Photo by Michael Appleton/courtesy of Mayoral Photography Office.