Merkley: Health Care Amendment Looks Out For Nursing Mothers

Merkley: Health Care Amendment Looks Out For Nursing Mothers

Breastfeeding Amendment Adopted Unanimously During Markup of Health Care Reform Legislation

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.”