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De Blasio Signs Bill Requiring Breastfeeding Rooms in City Buildings

By  William Mathis and Jeff Mays | August 11, 2016 5:07pm 

 A woman breastfeeds her child in public in New York City.
A woman breastfeeds her child in public in New York City.
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Getty/Andrew Burton

CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a new law Thursday that mandates certain city-run buildings provide lactation rooms for new mothers.

Under the legislation, places like job centers, SNAP centers, and medical assistance program centers of the Department of Social Services and Human Resources Administration, as well as city-owned borough offices of the Administration for Children’s Services, must have a separate room for mothers to express milk.  

“This bill is about fairness, access, and health — no new mother should be unable to breastfeed because she can’t find a private space,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“This bill takes our city one step towards being a place where all women feel comfortable breastfeeding whenever they need to, wherever they need to.”

According to New York State law, mothers have the right to breastfeed in any location, public or private.

The rooms created under the new bill will ensure that mothers have a sanitary location — that is not a restroom — that gives women privacy and also includes an electrical outlet, a chair and nearby access to running water.

The buildings included in the law must also display posters to inform mothers about the lactation rooms, and a list of the spaces will be made available online.

Breastfed children have lower rates of ear infections and respiratory problems, research shows. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of cancer and heart disease.

The legislation is sponsored by Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy, who is a father of six, de Blasio said. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also recently launched a lactation room open to the public at Borough Hall.

The Department of Health already has five lactation rooms throughout the city and will add six more, officials said, and the Human Resources Administration is looking to add dozens of breastfeeding stations. 

The bill was passed unanimously by the City Council on July 14 and will take effect July 1, 2017.

“Too often, the needs of breastfeeding women are overlooked or even stigmatized,”  City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement.  

“By mandating publicly accessible lactation rooms at a wide variety of city facilities, our City is helping mothers, families, and our youngest New Yorkers get a healthy start.”