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Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation Requiring City Agencies to Make a Lactation Room Available to Members of the Public

August 11, 2016

NEW YORK––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 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.

“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 Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am proud to sign this bill into law, and I thank Council Member Robert Cornegy for sponsoring this legislation, at the request of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership.”

“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.”

“Families should be able to choose how to feed their child without worrying about the barriers breastfeeding mothers may face. Regardless of whether she prefers to continue breastfeeding or not, all women should have the option to express milk in a safe, clean and private space. This bill ensures that no new mothers have to choose between seeking out City services and breastfeeding or pumping milk. Along with the recent legislation to provide free feminine hygiene products and paid parental leave, the de Blasio administration and the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity are promoting real family values – and making New York City a safer, more fair, and more equitable place for women and girls,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity.

"Breast milk is perfect, made-to-order food for a baby, and all mothers should be supported in breastfeeding. This legislation builds on the Health Department’s efforts to remove barriers that may interfere with a mother’s ability to breastfeed," said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. "I thank Council Member Robert Cornegy for his efforts to make it easier for women to breastfeed – including sponsoring this important legislation. I am grateful for a Mayor and an administration that prioritizes efforts to make New York City mothers feel comfortable breastfeeding wherever and whenever they need."

“As we recognize the many health benefits of breastfeeding for both children and mothers, this legislation will ensure that nursing mothers who visit our facilities will have a clean, safe and comfortable place to express milk,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “This bill represents the Administration’s commitment to supporting mothers by making it easier for them to choose what is best for their children.”

“Every mother deserves the basic right to breastfeed her baby in a private, safe and convenient space,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “Providing lactation rooms in locations throughout our city is a step toward promoting healthy families. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for supporting legislation that will make it easier for mothers to nourish their babies.”

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.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, "On behalf of all Brooklynites, especially our young children and families, I thank Mayor de Blasio for signing our lactation room legislation into law and advancing the public health imperative that is breastfeeding. 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. I intend to continue advancing a robust dialogue about the importance of breastfeeding and its role in our city helping to raise healthy children and families.”

Council Member Robert Cornegy said, “After watching my wife, an Executive, struggle to comfortably breastfeed our twin boys throughout the City, I made a promise to secure a stronger future for New York City's breastfeeding families. Today, it was a privilege to stand with my fellow breastfeeding advocates to watch Mayor de Blasio sign Intro. 1063 into law. As a legislator, I am most proud when the legislation that I draft makes a positive difference in the lives of New Yorkers. Today’s bill signing during World Breastfeeding Month is a victory and a reminder of a mothers' right to publicly breastfeed and the City’s obligation to accommodate this healthy choice.”

“As Chair of the Women's Issues Committee and Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I would like to acknowledge the incredible women throughout this city and beyond that unequivocally breastfeed their children anytime and anyplace. This is a personal decision for every woman, which ought to be respected within our society. As working and stay-at-home mothers transition into their new roles, it is often a challenge to identify safe spaces where women can nurse and pump to care for their child(ren). This legislation will transform certain public spaces into safe havens to support the bonding experience between mother and child while promoting their well-being,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

“This bill serves two important functions: protecting the rights of our mothers and safeguarding the health of infants,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “When mothers feel uncomfortable or unaccommodated when they need to breastfeed, it creates real problems for them and for their children. There should be no obstacles in the way of women who want to perform this healthy, natural function, and this bill is going to help us overcome these barriers in a big way. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio‎, Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Robert Cornegy and Laurie Cumbo, and Borough President Eric Adams for standing up for New York City families.”

“I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Robert Cornegy for recognizing the need for women who breastfeed, to have a sanitary and comfortable place to do so. New York City is leading the way to support women and children-- and lactation rooms are another example of forward thinking,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus of the New York City Council.

“Breastfeeding is natural, it’s healthy, and it improves outcomes for both mother and child,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Every new mother must have the opportunity to breastfeed if she wants to, free from discrimination or stigma. Congratulations to Councilmember Cornegy, who has led by example on this issue, providing a first-of-its-kind private lactation room in his own Council office.”

“I applaud this new law and thank the Mayor for signing it. This new City law further eliminates the many obstacles that mother’s often face when it comes to breastfeeding. Last year, I introduced legislation in Congress to improve a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows new mothers to pump breastmilk in a private spot at their place of employment. All mothers deserve privacy when breastfeeding, and I’m proud that New York City is leading the way to accomplish this critical effort,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng.

“I’m proud that, once again, New York City is leading the nation in supporting nursing mothers,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Too often, women have called my office to share their experiences of being harassed or threatened for nursing at work or in public places, and I have worked for many years advocating for the rights of nursing mothers. This bill, Intro 1063-A, will help thousands of nursing moms across the city find a clean, private place to nurse or pump milk when they are away from home. I commend the New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio for their support of this important legislation.”

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. 

"Encouraging breastfeeding is a public health priority and a vital part of leveling the playing field for women and families. Moms in New York have the right to breastfeed anywhere they’re legally allowed to be, but sometimes they need a little privacy to feel that breastfeeding is a real option. I thank Council Member Robert Cornegy and his colleagues, and Mayor de Blasio, for making safe, clean lactation rooms a part of our city’s landscape," said Senator Liz Krueger.

“We thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Robert Cornegy and his colleagues for introducing this important bill. Lactation rooms are one of the many ways we as a community can support our breastfeeding mothers by making it easier for them to maintain the breastfeeding relationship with their infants. For mothers who cannot be with their babies, lactation rooms are critical to breastfeeding success. For babies born prematurely, it may be life-saving. Breastfeeding contributes to better health for both babies and their mothers and builds better communities now and far into the future. Lactation rooms are a win-win for everyone,” said Theresa Landau, Chairperson, NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council, Inc.

Joan Malin, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City said, "Breastfeeding is associated with a variety of health benefits for parents and infants, yet many breastfeeding mothers are still made to feel embarrassed or stigmatized for expressing milk. With this new bill that provides private spaces for breastfeeding in many locations that serve the public, New York City is becoming a more welcoming place for new parents who choose to breastfeed. Being able to breastfeed comfortably and without the threat of harassment is an important part of a person's reproductive and sexual health, and Planned Parenthood of New York City applauds Council Member Robert Cornegy, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their leadership on this landmark bill that promotes gender equity and further protects the health and wellbeing of breastfeeding individuals and their infants."

Sonia Ossorio, President, NOW-NYC said, "This legislation creating private space for breastfeeding mothers makes it a priority to accommodate women who seek privacy to pump or breastfeed, while also making clear that our right to breastfeed in public remains protected. Providing women with the support, tools, and access they need to care for themselves and their families is crucial."

"We commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration, as well as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Council, for taking this important step to make New York City more family-friendly by setting up lactation rooms in public facilities. Providing these facilities for breast-feeding moms positively impacts the health of their babies and makes the city more accessible to new mothers. This new law is part of continuing efforts by the Mayor and Council President which reflects their deep concern for the health of New York City’s working families. The first law signed by the Mayor was to expand the paid sick days law to cover 750,000 additional workers who had been left out of the original law. Then, this past January, the Mayor signed an executive order to provide six weeks of paid parental leave to management and non-union city workers, so taking time off to bond with a new baby would no longer cause an economic hardship for new parents. Today's law is yet another example of what elected officials can do to promote the health and well-being of the babies of residents and visitors," said Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

“As an organization committed to ensuring that new mothers are free to breastfeed if they choose, A Better Balance has seen firsthand the obstacles to breastfeeding too many women still face. That's why we are thrilled with the success of this important initiative. With today's bill signing, Mayor de Blasio and City Council have shown that, once again, New York City is a leader in women’s equality,” said Sherry Leiwant, Co-President, A Better Balance.

Dr. Danielle Moss Lee, President & CEO, YWCA of the City of New York said, "I applaud the de Blasio Administration for signing a bill that ensures new mothers seeking City services will have easy access to spaces where they can privately express milk. As a national leader on progressive causes, New York City has once again set an example for the rest of the nation to follow. The YWCA NYC is always honored to support legislation that will improve the health of women and girls and promote gender equity. Access to these facilities will provide the women of this City, not only a private and safe space to express milk, but another option to their protected right to breastfeed in any public place.”

“We are grateful for this support for women as they exercise their right to breastfeed,” said Nitzia Logothetis, Founder and Executive Chairwoman of the Seleni Institute. “This legislation is a tremendous step forward for our city’s mothers and families, as we know that when women are supported, they are able to best care for themselves, their children, and their families.”

“We hear over and over that moms wanting to breastfeed and pump are doing so in sub-par and dirty locations. Being able to feed your baby without being chained to your home is important on so many levels. This bill will help not only help create healthier babies but will also help the mental health of our moms,” said Susan Fox, Founder of Park Slope Parents.

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