Feeding a baby on-the-go can be tough, especially for parents who work outside of the home. From privacy issues to problems with space (no one wants to pump in a bathroom stall, folks), there are many issues for improvement. The good news? Comfier breastfeeding rooms for working moms are possibly on the horizon in California, signaling that change is possible across the United States.
The California Senate approved SB 142 Tuesday, a bill that would require "employers to provide not just a private room for nursing or pumping breastmilk, but also provide access to running water and a refrigerator or space and electricity for an employee-provided cooler," according to the Sacramento Bee.
California's Department of Labor Standards would be required to "establish a model lactation accommodation policy and lactation accommodation best practices to provide guidance to employers" with these suggested amenities, according to California Legislative Information:
- A permanent lactation location that is suitable for the preparation and storage of food.
- A door that can be locked from the inside.
- At least one electrical outlet.
- A washable, comfortable chair.
- Adequate lighting.
- The ability to partition the room.
- A refrigerator that the employer permits employees to use for storage of breast milk.
- A sink with hot and cold running water.
- A hospital-grade breast pump.
- A full-length mirror.
- A microwave.
- A locker to place personal belongings.
- A permanent sign outside designating the room for lactation accommodation.
The bill, which was co-sponsored by the groups California Breastfeeding Coalition, California WIC Association and Legal Aid at Work, will move on to the California State Assembly for a final vote.
If the bill passes and is signed into law, it would set an important example for other states in America. Every parent, no matter where they work, deserves to lactate in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment.
Proponents of the bill agree, arguing that "encouraging new mothers to breastfeed is in the best interest of the employee and the employer,” according to Good Day Sacramento, reasoning that "employers actually realize a return on their investment with reduced absenteeism, increased worker retention and higher reported feelings of satisfaction and productivity.”
This isn't California's first effort to improve breastfeeding int the workplace. Back in January, Assembly Bill 1976 went into effect, a law that "requires employers to provide their workers with a private area that is not a bathroom to pump," according to the Sacramento Bee.
Although this bill was a big step forward, it isn't as detailed as SB 142. A law like SB 142 would prevent an employer from turning the office break room into a makeshift lactation room, for instance, or encouraging their employee to pump in a office supply closet. A room is just a room if it doesn't have the necessary requirements a person needs to comfortably breastfeed, right?
The future of SB 142 remains to be seen, but it would be a great step forward if this bill passes, especially since only twenty-nine states have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. By passing this legislation, California would send the message to lawmakers across the country that comfortable lactation rooms in the workplace are important.