- A new law requires breastfeeding rooms at all medium and large US airports.
- The new lactation areas, as they’re called, must be accessible for people with disabilities, have seating and outlets, and not be located inside bathrooms.
- Breastfeeding has health benefits for both mothers and babies.
- Incorporating lactation facilities into public spaces helps families reap those benefits.
Mothers travelling in the US will soon have more spaces to nurse or pump in private.
A new law called the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act (FAM) will require all medium and large airports in the country to have dedicated lactation areas. It was signed into law by President Trump on October 5 as part of a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, USA Today reported.
The FAM Act stipulates that airport lactation areas must:
- be located beyond the security screening area, in each terminal of the airport
- be shielded from view and free from public intrusion
- have locking doors
- include seating, a table or flat surface, and electrical outlet
- be readily accessible to and usable for people with disabilities
- not be inside a restroom
It also makes grants available to help airports with the cost of renovations needed to meet these requirements, the USA Today report added. Some airports already do have designated breastfeeding spaces, but they may be lacking. One 2014 survey of 100 US airports, for example, found that only eight had private, non-bathroom lactation rooms complete with a chair, table, and electrical outlet.
“We are celebrating this passage as another piece of the puzzle for comprehensive breastfeeding support in our country,” Amelia Psmythe, Interim Executive Director of the United States Breastfeeding Commission (USBC), said in an October 12 statement about the new law.
Last fall, Duckworth penned an op-ed in Cosmopolitan, saying that her own experiences expressing breast milk while travelling inspired her to introduce the FAM Act.
“As a nursing mother, I had to stick to a feeding and expressing schedule, including when I was at the airport, but I quickly realised that finding a clean, accessible, private space was stressful and inordinately difficult,” she wrote. “At many airports, I was redirected to a bathroom, forced to pump in a bathroom stall. We would never ask our fellow travellers to eat their sandwiches in a bathroom, but there I was, expressing milk for my child on a toilet seat.”
These new facilities won’t just make travelling more convenient – they can also help mothers reap the health benefits linked to consistent breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding has health benefits for mums and babies
Although breastfeeding isn’t recommended in some situations (for example, when a mum is actively using illicit drugs or has certain health issues) and some mothers may need to use formula for a variety of reasons, a wealth of scientific evidence shows that breastfeeding benefits both babies and mothers.
Breast milk has the right composition of nutrients to support a baby’s growth and contains antibodies that protect babies from some infections, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and a recent study found it may protect against unhealthy weight gain, too, compared to formula feeding.
In mothers, breastfeeding prompts the release of hormones that help the uterus shrink back to its normal size and can decrease post-childbirth bleeding. It may also reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, according to the ACOG.
But mothers need support – like lactation rooms in public spaces – in order to get those benefits
Even if a mother wants to breastfeed, she could encounter external factors that hamper her ability to do it consistently. One such roadblock may be the lack of adequate lactation facilities in offices or public spaces.
In the absence of dedicated breastfeeding rooms, nursing mums may be forced to use ill-equipped spaces like public bathrooms or nurse out in the open. As of July 2018,public breastfeeding is legal in all 50 US states, but as so many mothers have recounted in somanymediareports, public nursing is often met with hostility.
That’s what makes dedicated lactation rooms so important.
“This is a strong step forward toward a world where breastfeeding families across our country are seamlessly supported wherever they are – at their places of work, in their communities, in an airport, anywhere,” Mona Liza Hamlin, chair of the USBC, said in the statement.
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