From nationwide public legalization to discrimination protections and jury duty exemptions, breastfeeding laws across the United States have undergone some major changes over the years. In fact, there have been at least 28 breastfeeding laws passed in the last decade — the majority of which were aimed at either increasing legalization and discrimination protections, improving access to support resources, or just making life a little bit easier for nursing mothers. As 2019 comes to a close, Romper looks back at this past decade's most significant breastfeeding laws.
The benefits of breastfeeding have long been lauded. So much so, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has deemed breastfeeding "a key strategy to improve public health" due to the health benefits it provides infants, children, and mothers. As a result, more and more lawmakers at both the state and federal level have sought to improve breastfeeding rights and protections — and thankfully, over the course of the last 10 years, they've made some significant gains.
In fact, it seems fair to say that this past decade saw some seriously good things happened in regards to breastfeeding laws in the United States. For example, laws passed in Idaho and Utah in 2018 made it legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states, a major milestone for nursing mothers. But what other legislative gains have been made in regards to breastfeeding?
Here are 28 breastfeeding laws passed within the last 10 years:
The Affordable Care Act — 2010
While not a law that pertained exclusively to breastfeeding, the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010, did include provisions aimed at supporting breastfeeding. For example, the law required most health insurance plans to cover the cost of breastfeeding support, lactation counseling, and even supplies like breast pumps as preventive services.
The Affordable Care Act also included a provision that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require most employers to provide reasonable breaks for breastfeeding and or pumping for up to one year after childbirth. The provision also requires employers to provide employees with a dedicated place — that is not a bathroom — in which they can breastfeed or pump.
Hawaii Bill Urges Program To Encourage Breastfeeding — 2010
Passed in 2010, Hawaii's Concurrent Resolution 158 urged the state's Department of Human Services and Department of Health to develop a program that would encourage breastfeeding among parents on Medicaid.
Illinois Commits To Removing Barriers To Breastfeeding — 2011
By passing Senate Resolution 170 in 2011, lawmakers in Illinois officially recognized the benefits of breastfeeding and committed to ensuring that "barriers to initiation and continuation of breastfeeding are removed and that a mother's right to breastfeed is upheld."
Louisiana Exempts Breastfeeding Items From Sales Tax — 2011
Louisiana state lawmakers passed a law in 2011 that exempted breastfeeding items such as nursing bras, breast pumps, and accessories from state sales tax.
Louisiana Requires Accommodations For Breastfeeding — 2011
In 2011, Louisiana state lawmakers also moved to revise state statutes established in 1950 to require certain state-owned buildings and educational institutions to provide suitable areas for breastfeeding or lactation. According to the law, accommodations are required to include a chair, lockable door, work surface, storage, and an electrical outlet.
Nebraska Gives Mothers The Right To Breastfeed In Public — 2011
In 2011, Nebraska passed a law giving a mother the right to breastfeed "her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be."
California Adds Breastfeeding To Discrimination Protections — 2012
California Assembly Bill No. 2386, which was passed in 2012, amended a section of the state's Government Code that pertained to discrimination protections to include breastfeeding. Specifically, the bill provided the term "sex" in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (as in "it's unlawful to engage in specified discriminatory practices in employment or housing accommodations on the basis of sex") also included breastfeeding and medical conditions related to breastfeeding.
Connecticut Exempts Breastfeeding Women From Jury Duty — 2012
In 2012, passage of Connecticut Senate Bill 194 provided breastfeeding women in the state with the ability to postpone jury duty service for up to 12 months or request reasonable accommodation be made for them.
Michigan Exempts Nursing Mothers From Jury Duty — 2012
Thanks to a law passed in 2012, nursing women in Michigan can claim an exemption from jury duty for the entire period that they are nursing.
Utah Encourages Employers To Supply Breaks To Nursing Moms — 2012
Years before Utah became one of the last states to legalize breastfeeding in public, state legislators passed a law encouraging employers to provide unpaid break time and an appropriate space for nursing mothers to breastfeed or pump. The law also encouraged employers to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding, and thus the importance of providing nursing employees with time and space to express milk.
South Dakota's Jury Duty Exemption Law — 2012
South Dakota lawmakers passed a law in 2012 that gave any mother who was breastfeeding a child younger than one year the ability to be exempted from jury duty after filing a written request.
Michigan's Breastfeeding Anti-discrimination Act — 2014
Passage of Michigan's Breastfeeding Anti-discrimination Act in 2014, prohibited public accommodations from denying breastfeeding women "the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations." The law also prohibits the posting of anything that suggests breastfeeding women are unwelcome, "undesirable," or will be denied or refused service in some way.
Missouri Breastfeeding Act — 2014
Passed in 2014, Missouri House Bill 1320 gave women the right to breastfeed or express milk in any public or private location where they are authorized to be. The law also explicitly stated that breastfeeding shall not "constitute sexual conduct or sexual contact" or be considered an act of public indecency, indecent exposure, lewd touching, or obscenity. It further prohibits municipalities from restricting women from breastfeeding or expressing milk in public and private locations and allows for breastfeeding women to be excused from jury duty.
Virginia Mandates Lactation Support In Schools — 2014
In 2014, Virginia lawmakers passed a law requiring local school boards to adopt a policy that establishes, in each school, at least one private, non-restroom designated lactation room for nursing employees or students. Adopted policies were also required to allow nursing employees or students to take breaks "of reasonable length during the school day" for the purpose of expressing milk until their child is one year old.
West Virginia Protects A Child's Right To Nurse — 2014
Lawmakers in West Virginia amended the state's code to include a public policy protecting what they called "a child's right to nurse." The law not only decreed breastfeeding to be "an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health," but also stated that "a mother may breast feed a child in any location open to the public." What's more, the law specified that "nursing in a public place is socially acceptable," meaning no one could condemn or otherwise bother anyone for doing it.
Illinois' Lactation Accommodation In Airports Act — 2015
In 2015, state legislators in Illinois passed the Lactation Accommodation in Airports Act, requiring airports to provide nursing mothers with a designated and private lactation space in each terminal. At a minimum, the law requires the space be located outside a restroom and include a chair and power outlet.
Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act (BABES Act) — 2016
In an effort to address the reported inconsistencies behind the Transportation Security Administration's implementation of its own rules for carrying on breast milk and formula, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Sen. Kelly Ayotte introduced the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act (BABES Act) in 2016. The bill was easily passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016. It tasked TSA with providing employees with ongoing training to ensure that the agency's rule regarding breast milk, formula, and juice in carry on luggage — which states that, "Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag — were consistently being followed.
Illinois Establishes Protections For Nursing Students — 2017
In 2017, lawmakers in Illinois established protections for breastfeeding students with the passage of House Bill 2369. As part of the law, public schools were required to provide reasonable accommodations to lactating students, including time and a private, secure space to nurse, express milk, or address other breastfeeding-related needs. Schools were also required to provide students with permission to bring any needed breast pumping equipment onto campus, access to a power outlet, and storage for milk.
California Nixes Breastfeeding Discrimination In Schools — 2017
In 2017, California state legislators passed Assembly Bill No. 1556, which amended a section of the state's Government Code to makes it unlawful for a school district's governing board to refuse to hire someone because of pregnancy or breastfeeding. The bill also made it unlawful for an employer to refuse any female employee considered "disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition related to pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding" a period of specified leave.
Utah's Breastfeeding Protection Act — 2018
In March 2018, Utah became one of the last states to legalize breastfeeding in public with the passage of the Breastfeeding Protection Act. The law specified that "a woman may breastfeed in any place of public accommodation." However, although the law initially included language that stressed women did not need to have their breast covered during feeding, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that language was removed before passage, making the law rather vague as to whether or not coverings are required.
Michigan Exempts Breastfeeding From Public Nudity — 2018
In 2018, Michigan state legislators passed a law that explicitly excluded breastfeeding and any potential exposure that may occur as a result of breastfeeding from being considered public nudity. The law provides additional protections for breastfeeding in public.
Idaho's Breastfeeding Act — 2018
A few days after Utah passed their Breastfeeding Protection Act, Idaho became the last state to legalize breastfeeding in public. Idaho House Bill 448 exempted mothers nursing in public places from obscenity and indecent exposure statutes.
Washington Requires Jails & Prisons To Provide Access To Midwifery Or Doula Services — 2018
In 2018, the state of Washington passed a law requiring jails and prisons to provide access to midwifery or doula services to incarcerated individuals who are either pregnant or have given birth within the last six weeks. As part of the law, midwives or doulas are to be "granted appropriate facility access" and allowed to "attend and provide assistance during labor and childbirth where feasible."
The law further specified that the services provided by a doula included "physical, emotional, or informational support" before, during, and after delivery. This could include, prenatal and postpartum education, breastfeeding assistance, parenting education, or even support in situations where a mother has become separated from their child.
New Jersey Includes Breastfeeding In Discrimination Practices — 2018
In 2018, New Jersey state legislators passed a law making it unlawful for employers to discriminate against pregnant or breastfeeding women in either hiring, compensation, or other terms of employment.
New Jersey Exempts Breast Pumps From Sales Tax — 2018
In an effort to further encourage breastfeeding, New Jersey passed a law in 2018 that exempted breast pumps, replacement parts, storage supplies, repair, and certain kits from state sales tax when sold to individual consumers for personal use.
Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act — 2018
Although first introduced as a stand alone bill by Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Stephen Knight in May 2017, the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act was later incorporated into a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in October 2018. It required large and medium sized airports to equip each terminal with a private, clean, and designated non-bathroom space for women to pump or breastfeed in. Under the law, the space must include a table, chair, and electrical outlet.
New Mexico Requires Correctional Facilities To Implement Breastfeeding Policies — 2019
In 2019, lawmakers in New Mexico passed a law requiring correctional facilities to develop and implement breastfeeding and lactation policies for inmates by Jan. 1, 2020. Under the law, policies must include provisions for providing lactating individuals with access to an electric breast pump as well as milk storage and transport and medical support and care for cessation of lactation if desired by the individual. Policies are also directed to include provisions for breastfeeding in facilities able to accommodate skin-to-skin contact visits.
Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act — 2019
The Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump in July. It requires certain federal public buildings with public restrooms (think the Smithsonian, federal courthouses, the Capitol, and other federal buildings nationwide) to also provide a public lactation room. Under the law, these lactation rooms must be hygienic and not also be a designated restroom.
Of course, there's always room for improvement when it comes to further strengthening and expanding breastfeeding rights. Here's to hoping lawmakers continue to make breastfeeding rights a legislative priority in the next decade.