Weinberg-Ruiz Bill Requiring Certain Public Facilities to Provide On-Site Lactation Room Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz to require that certain public employers provide reasonable accommodations and information for mothers who are breastfeeding was approved today by the Senate.

“Breast milk is the most nutritious food for an infant and offers a wide range of benefits to both the nursing mother and the newborn. Mothers who choose to breastfeed should be encouraged to do so regardless of where they are, and they should be offered accommodations that allow them to do so in private without fear of embarrassment,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “This bill ensures that women who are breastfeeding can continue to do so.”

“Breast feeding should be made as accessible as possible to mothers. Breast milk offers enormous health benefits to the development and growth of a child. We must ensure that mothers have suitable accommodations for nursing or expressing milk in public,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This bill will create public nursing and lactation rooms to meet the needs of breastfeeding mothers.”

The bill, S-1735, directs the Department of Health (DOH) to require certain public agencies to provide accommodations to any mother who is utilizing on-site services and to create information that affirms a mother’s right to nurse in public. It also requires that lactation rooms be made available and that information be distributed directly to certain public facilities and posted, in a printable format, and on the department’s Internet website.

Under the bill, at least one lactation room would be made available to any mother who is utilizing the services of every health care facility, federally qualified health center, county or municipal welfare office or agency, Medical Assistance Customer Center, One-Stop Career Center of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, adoption agency or center operated by, or under the authority of, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families; foster care agency contracted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency or local office of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to make at least one lactation room available, upon request, to any mother who is utilizing on-site services.

No later than one year after the bill’s effective date, the DOH would be required to establish, and post at a publicly accessible location on its internet website, a list of all facilities that have made lactation rooms available. Thereafter, the DOH would be required to make regular updates to the list to reflect the most recent information.

The bill requires public facilities to display the prepared information in a clear and conspicuous manner in the facility’s public waiting room, as well as in the lactation room(s).

The bill would additionally require the Department of Education (DOE) to annually report to the governor and Legislature on the lactation-related policies that have been implemented at schools, colleges, and universities in the State.

Senator Weinberg was successful in having a lactation room added at the Statehouse last year for nursing mothers, including employees and visitors to the complex. It is located on the 3rd floor of the Legislative State House.  The room can be accessed through the door for the women’s restroom.

The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 39-0.