State Legislation Supporting Increased Breastfeeding Duration

January 17, 2019|12:03 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Breastfeeding is known to have health benefits for both mothers and babies, including reduced risks of asthma and obesity for babies and a lower risk of high blood pressure and breast cancer for mothers. Unfortunately, barriers such as a lack of support from a woman’s partner, family, hospital, or worksite, can make it difficult for some women to breastfeed through their baby’s first year.

Laws and policies can help reduce these barriers and improve women’s access to support, time, equipment, location, and space for breastfeeding. Many of these laws and policies are adopted at the state level, creating variation among the states. In 2010, however, ACA created a uniform national policy for some breastfeeding issues.

For example, ACA requires most private health insurance plans provide lactation support services and access to breastfeeding equipment (such as breast pumps) to women without cost. Additionally, ACA requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide women with adequate break time as well as private, clean spaces, to express breast milk during the work day for one year after a child’s birth. Research on these policy changes shows that the changes are associated with an increase in breastfeeding duration, as well as other positive impacts of breastfeeding.

Even with the positive results from ACA, states continue to expand access to support, time, equipment, and space for breastfeeding women. During the past couple years, several states have enacted laws aimed at removing additional barriers to breastfeeding duration.

For example, in 2017, Illinois (HB 2369) and Nebraska (LB 427) enacted laws requiring schools to provide accommodations to students who are breastfeeding. In 2018, New York required state-owned buildings, when possible, to make lactation rooms available to members of the public (AB 9508). In Puerto Rico, the legislature extended access to workplace breastfeeding accommodations to part-time municipal employees (PC 1050).

In addition, in 2018 Utah enacted the Breastfeeding Protection Act (HB 196), which clearly establishes the ability of women to breastfeed in places of public accommodation (i.e., places that offer services, facilities, and goods to the general public). Meanwhile, Idaho explicitly excluded breastfeeding and expressing breast milk from the state’s obscenity and indecent exposure law (HB 448). Within a bill concerning the fair treatment of people who are incarcerated, Connecticut included a provision directing its department of corrections to establish a lactation policy to permit incarcerated mothers the opportunity to express and store breast milk for their babies (SB 13). Finally, New Hampshire’s legislature established an advisory council on lactation to examine best practices on behalf of pregnant and breastfeeding women and to make policy recommendations (SB 478).

As the 2019 legislative year gets under way, ASTHO anticipates that even more states will consider and adopt laws to further support mothers and breastfeeding. ASTHO will continue to monitor these policies and inform our members as changes are made. In the meantime, information on additional state efforts to improve breastfeeding duration can be found on ASTHO’s breastfeeding page, including state stories and examples of state strategies in this area.

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