Merkley Announces Legislation to Make it Easier for Working Moms to Breastfeed

Merkley Announces Legislation to Make it Easier for Working Moms to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding Promotion Act Includes Elements of Successful Oregon Law

– Joined by House sponsors and nursing moms, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act which will help moms continue to breastfeed after they return to work.  The legislation includes elements of a law Oregon passed in 2007 under Merkley’s leadership in the state legislature to ensure workers have private areas and breaks to pump during the workday.

“It’s not every day we have the opportunity to enact legislation that is so clearly a win-win for families and our nation.  Making it easier for moms to breastfeed means we have healthier babies, stronger families and happier workers,” Sen. Merkley said.  “I championed Oregon’s breastfeeding bill two years ago.  I’m excited to see Oregon’s contribution to a nationwide movement embraced by Representative Maloney and all those who have long advocated the purely common sense notion that breast milk is the best option for the health of infants and their mothers.”

“’The Breastfeeding Promotion Act’ recognizes both scientific fact and the way Americans live now: human milk is the best nutrient for new babies-- and most mothers have to go back to work during a child’s first year, when breastfeeding is most important,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the House sponsor of the bill.  “This bill is needed now more than ever, as moms head back to work earlier than ever during this recession. I hope that with Senator Merkley’s good efforts, we can get this bill to the President.”

Today, Merkley participated in a Capitol Hill press conference with Maloney and co-sponsor Representative Lois Capps of California to announce the bill.  Also in attendance were several nursing moms as well as health experts.

Studies have repeatedly shown that breast milk is best for infants, particularly for the first six months.  Children who are breastfed are less likely to be susceptible to a host of illnesses including asthma, diabetes, obesity and certain cancer.  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 in health care costs for all child illnesses. 

The Breastfeeding Promotion Act would help moms and babies by:

·         Protecting Breastfeeding Under Civil Rights Law.  This will ensure that women cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace for expressing milk or breastfeeding during lunch or breaks.

·         Providing Tax Incentives for Employers.  The bill encourages employers to set up a safe, private, and sanitary environment for women to express (or pump) breast milk by providing a tax credit for employers who set up a lactation location, purchase or rent lactation-related equipment, hire a lactation consultant or otherwise promote a lactation-friendly work environment.  Many companies would be able to receive a tax credit of up to fifty percent of their related expenses.

·         Setting Safety Standards for Breast Pumps.  The bill requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop minimum quality standards for breast pumps to ensure that products on the market are safe and effective.

·         Allowing Breastfeeding Equipment to Be Tax Deductible.

·         Protecting the Privacy of Breastfeeding Mothers.  The bill ensures moms break time to express milk, and reasonable efforts to provide a private place for them to pump.

“My very first event as a candidate for U.S. Senate was at a luncheon celebrating the success of Oregon’s breastfeeding promotion law.  I said that day that I would work to expand Oregon’s efforts nationwide,” said Merkley.  “What’s good for Oregon’s moms and babies is also good for all families across this country.”