Merkley: Health Care Amendment Looks Out For Nursing Mothers

The Senate Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions Committee unanimously approved an amendment from Oregon’s
Senator Jeff Merkley during markup of health care reform legislation today that
would assist nursing mothers.  The amendment would provide new mothers
with reasonable break times to nurse their child for one year after the birth
of their child.

“As we continue to develop real health care reform, we must
consider every opportunity to keep our families healthy and cut costs,” Merkley
said.  “We have scientific evidence proving that children who are
breastfed have lower risks of disease and illness over the course of their
lifetimes.  I’m proud that my colleagues have included this amendment as
part of our work towards a health care system that provides affordable care for
every American.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that breast milk is best for
infants, particularly during the first six months.  Breastfeeding benefits
brain development in children and those who are breastfed are less likely to be
susceptible to a host of illnesses including asthma, diabetes, obesity and
certain cancers.  Moreover, the reduced rate of illness means health care
savings for our nation.  A recent study by the United Breastfeeding
Committee found that if half of the babies in the U.S. were exclusively
breastfed for six months, we would realize potential savings of up to $14 billion
a year in health care costs for childhood illnesses.  

“More than 70 percent of mothers in this country work full
time,” Merkley said.  “To me, it makes sense to help them provide every
advantage in caring for and nourishing their young children, including the time
and opportunity to breastfeed.  Two years ago, I advocated for legislation
in Oregon that would allow mothers adequate time and privacy at work to provide
nourishing breast milk to their children.  The amendment adopted today
will encourage a scientifically proven practice that makes mothers and their
children healthier and eases the burden on our health care system.”