Norton Introduces Bill to Require Federal Buildings to Provide Lactation Spaces to Visitors

Feb 2, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to require federally owned or leased buildings to provide private, hygienic lactation spaces for visitors and guests to pump or breastfeed.  Federal law requires dedicated lactation spaces be made available for employees at federally owned or leased buildings, but Norton said that nursing mothers who visit federal buildings should also be entitled to appropriate, private places to pump breast milk for their babies.  The bill does not require that an exclusive space be permanently set aside only for lactation, but assumes space availability as needed.  Last October, Norton wrote to Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton after employees reported facing significant obstacles to pumping breast milk in safe and private spaces and that the Smithsonian lacked dedicated lactation spaces at more than 20 of its facilities, in violation of federal law.  After the Smithsonian took corrective action, Norton drafted her bill to ensure the many Smithsonian museums and other federal buildings in the nation’s capital that are frequented by nursing mothers provide lactation spaces to visitors in addition to employees.  In good news for nursing mothers, Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week announced all U.S.-based Department of Defense facilities with more than 50 female employees must provide dedicated lactation spaces.

“Federal policy has long encouraged nursing, and federal facilities should be the first to reflect this policy,” Norton said.  “The nation’s capital is a major tourist destination and nursing mothers visiting here have every reason to expect access to appropriate lactation spaces that are also used by federal employees, as needed.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Fairness For Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2016

February 2, 2016

            Today, I introduce the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2016, a bill that would require buildings that are either federally-owned or leased to provide designated private and hygienic lactation spaces for nursing mothers.  For years, federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have encouraged breastfeeding—the benefits are so great that the Affordable Care Act amended federal law to require employers to provide a designated, non-bathroom space for returning employees to pump breastmilk for their newborns, ensuring that new mothers would be able to continue this essential practice even after returning to work.  My bill would extend this requirement to include not just employees, but visitors and guests to federal facilities across the nation.

            In Washington, D.C. alone, there are millions of tourists who visit federal sites, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Institution.  Increasingly, families understand the unique benefits of breastfeeding, and visitors to these buildings who have newborns and babies should have a private space to breastfeed or pump.  The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented—breastmilk contains antibodies and hormones that boost babies’ immune systems, and studies have shown lower risks of asthma, diabetes, respiratory infections, and other diseases among breastfed babies.  Moreover, breastfeeding also has benefits for nursing mothers, who, research has shown, have lower risks of diabetes and certain forms of cancer.  Given the significant public health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, already recognized in federal policy, my bill is a logical next step to ensure visitors to federal sites have access to clean, hygienic, and private spaces for guests to nurse or pump.

            I urge my colleagues to support this bill, which would provide access to designated lactation rooms for guests to federally owned or leased buildings.