To celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, we looked into the progress being made into providing private breastfeeding facilities in public places around the globe.
It turns out that there have been some changes recently legislated in the U.S. The most recent is the bipartisan lactation bill, the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019, recently signed into law by President Trump. The new law requires all federal buildings that are open to the public to provide a safe, hygienic and private room dedicated to breastfeeding by 2021. These rooms must provide an electrical outlet for pumping, chairs and a counter or table surface to use. They cannot double as public bathrooms.
Already federal agencies have been providing designated spaces for returning employees to pump breast milk during the workday. The new law extends those spaces to all nursing parents who are visiting those buildings as tourists or visitors conducting business. This includes federal buildings and courthouses in every state, offices of the Senate and House on Capitol Hill, the Smithsonian and other federal museum buildings, the White House Visitor Center and more. Exceptions may be allowed for buildings that don’t have space for a lactation room that can be repurposed or constructed at a reasonable cost.
Montana Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), who introduced the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act after Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) had previously introduced it into the House, had already had some success with this type of legislation. In 2018 he successfully inserted a provision into the FAA Reauthorization Bill requiring “Mother’s Rooms” in all medium and large commercial airports. That bill was also signed by Trump.
On the other side of the globe, the Taj Mahal—a 17th century monument to eternal love— in Agra, India, is scheduled to receive a private lactation room this summer. This will be the first public breastfeeding room in the country. Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, a top official at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in Agra city, ordered the room after witnessing a mother struggle to breastfeed her baby inconspicuously.
“I could see it was so difficult for her (to feed her child) which is a basic motherhood right. So I thought we have to do something,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Swamkar has also ordered lactation rooms to be set up in two more monuments in Agra. Breastfeeding rooms in three of India’s 3,600 monuments may be a small percentage at the moment, but Swamkar is hoping that more will be created not only in India but in monuments around the world. With millions of annual visitors to monuments and museums worldwide, private spaces for breastfeeding would be welcome additions.
So while we celebrate that progress is being made, let’s hope that now that some “firsts” are taking hold and breaking down the stigma, more and more spaces will continue to be created.