State Rep. Kathy Kennedy (R-119) supported a proposal to provide mothers who breastfeed with a reasonable workplace accommodation. The legislation, HB-7043, “An Act Concerning Breastfeeding in the Workplace,” specifies that this area would be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while the employee expresses her milk. The legislation also requires the area to (1) include or be near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk and (2) have access to an electrical outlet.
“As a working woman who raised two children, I proudly support this bill. Breastfeeding has been shown to provide numerous health benefits for newborn babies. And unfortunately, right now, a lack of privacy led many mothers to breastfeed in their cars, use unsanitary restrooms, or share space with other co-workers while behind a screen or temporary barrier,” said Rep. Kennedy. “The bill would provide the necessary privacy for working mothers within the physical limitations of their workplace.”
Current law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, where an employee can express her milk in private during a meal or break period.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastfeeding is a key tool to improve public health. One concern is how the number of breastfeeding mothers drops off as their newborn ages: 79% at the start to 50% at six months to just 25% at twelve months. Breastfeeding has led to lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer for a mother, while babies are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, infections, cancers, and a range of other health issues.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively during the first six months of a baby’s life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for up to three years or as long as is mutually desired. The legislation seeks to clarify Connecticut’s current laws about lactation rooms: they need to be private, have an electrical outlet, and be situated near a refrigerator. Employers would be held responsible for making reasonable accommodations for up to three years for their employed mothers.
The bill now moves to the State Senate for further legislative action.