Congress

Lawmakers agree on this: Airports need better breastfeeding spaces

A lactation room at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport last year.
A lactation room at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport last year. McClatchy

The Senate on Tuesday approved an aviation bill that requires major airports to provide lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers, a provision pushed by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

Under the bill, large and medium hub airports would have two years to install the lactation rooms and could use federal funds from the Airport Improvement Program, which is supported by airline passenger fees.

The bill, which the Senate passed on a 95-3 vote, reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for 18 months and includes other provisions McCaskill supports.

“This legislation is a real victory for the traveling public,” she said in a statement. “I’m thrilled we’re able to help consumers gain many of the basic rights and services they deserve, such as accessible nursing facilities for new mothers, refunds for delayed baggage and better policies for families traveling with children.”

In a 2014 National Institutes of Health survey of 100 airports, only 8 percent met the minimum requirements for a breast-pumping mother: a space other than a bathroom with a chair, table and electrical outlet.

Moms deserve a place more accessible and convenient than the last stall of the bathroom.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55.8 percent of women with children under 1 year are in the workforce. While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to increase the number of infants who are breast-fed, new mothers who have to travel for work often lack a private, appropriate space for it.

Last month, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the requirement, backed by McCaskill, a Democrat, and Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican.

Their measure requires the lactation space to have a door and a lock, and be accessible to persons with disabilities.

“Moms deserve a place more accessible and convenient than the last stall of the bathroom,” McCaskill said in a statement last month.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who’s running for the Senate this year, introduced a similar provision last year, and it was included in the House of Representatives version of the FAA authorization bill.

The breastfeeding measures were supported by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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