CITY HALL — Lactation stations will be mandated at certain city centers to expand options for breastfeeding women thanks to a new bill unanimously passed by the City Council on Thursday.
Locations such as job centers, SNAP centers, medical assistance program centers under the Department of Social Services, along with city-owned borough offices for the Administration for Children’s Services are required to have at least one lactation room available to women using on-site services, according to the new law.
The room — which cannot be a bathroom — would be used for women to breastfeed or express milk in private and would include an electrical outlet, chair and nearby access to running water, according to legislation.
Under the bill, the mandated lactation room wouldn’t interfere with women’s rights to breastfeed in public.
It would instead expand options, said Councilman Robert Cornegy, who co-sponsored the bill by the request of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Cornegy introduced the law, he said, after watching his wife struggle to find places to breastfeed in the city, adding that she was once asked to leave a church’s sanctuary.
“This legislation is not in an effort to hide a woman’s ability to breastfeed wherever she needs to breastfeed,” he said.
“It is to support the idea that there are clean, safe, places to breastfeed. We know and we support the idea that a woman has a right to breastfeed wherever she wants to breastfeed.”
Both he and Adams have established lactation stations in their offices.
The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be required to create posters displayed in public spaces with information on breastfeeding, women’s rights to nurse and the availability of the rooms.
A list of the lactation stations is also mandated to be made available online.
Breastfeeding advocates, leaders, and elected officials including Councilwomen Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal gathered outside City Hall prior to the vote to push for the bill.
“We have to understand the original intent of what breasts were created for — they are created for nurturing,” Cumbo said.
“We have over-sexualized women’s bodies, women’s breasts, so much so to the extent that when someone sees someone breastfeeding, they’re almost disgusted by it. That has to be something that has to change immediately and we are taking those steps to do that.”
Kiki Valentine, a representative for Worksites for Wellness Inc., a group supporting breastfeeding working mothers, said she was recently asked to stop breastfeeding in public by a court officer.
The more information is made available across the board, the better, she said.
“The more public lactation rooms that exist in this city, the healthier our babies, mothers, and families will be,” Valentine said as she breastfed her son outside City Hall.
“This City Council initiative will increase breastfeeding among all New Yorkers and serve as an example to other women and the rest of our country that working women and breastfeeding women, that breastfeeding their children is possible and will be an example to private employers to what they can do to support their breastfeeding employees.”
The new legislation, which takes effect on July 1, 2017, also requires the Department of Education to submit a report of policies at city public schools to allow a student or guardians to access a lactation room upon request.
Separately, Worksites for Wellness is looking to make lactation rooms available on every CUNY campus, Valentine added.