Editorial: Merkley’s breast-feeding bill should be passed by Congress

There’s a health care reform that Congress can make that won’t cost billions: Support Sen. Jeff Merkley’s bill to ensure women can easily breast-feed or pump milk at work.

There is plenty of scientific evidence that breast-feeding is better than formula. Both the American Academy of Pediatricians and the World Health Organization recommend breast-feeding over formula. It generates health benefits for the child as well as the mother.

Breast-feeding may be best for babies, but many women still find it difficult or uncomfortable, especially if they are returning to work. Employers should make it easy for women to have private places where they can breast-feed or pump milk and store it.

There’s already a similar law in Oregon. Merkley is trying to spread it to the rest of the country. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., first introduced a breast-feeding bill in Congress in 1998. It’s never gotten any real traction in the Senate.

The latest bill would give breast-feeding moms protection under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It also would “require employers with over 50 employees to provide a private space and unpaid time off during the workday for mothers to express milk, and sets standards for breast pump manufacture. It also provides for tax incentives for employers that establish private lactation areas in the workplace and tax credits for nursing mothers,” Maloney said.

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