Self: Breastfeeding Rooms Will Now Be Required at All Major Airports

Air travel is about to become a lot more comfortable and convenient for nursing moms. On Friday, a 2017 bill requiring commercial airports to have designated breastfeeding rooms available became law.

Known as the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, the law requires all medium and large airports to provide clean, private facilities separate from the restroom for breastfeeding or pumping.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Representative Stephen Knight, R-Calif., in May 2017, and it ultimately was included in the package of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bills that the president signed on Friday.

The language within the bill lays out specifications for these lactation rooms. They must be shielded from public view or intrusion, lockable, and readily accessible to people with disabilities. The areas must provide a place to sit, a table (or similar flat surface), and an electrical outlet. The designated areas also must be located in each terminal after the security checkpoint—and they cannot be inside the bathroom. The bill also makes grants available for the building of these facilities.

Duckworth called attention to the issue in a 2017 op-ed for Cosmopolitan in which she talked about her own bad experiences breastfeeding in airports.

“As a nursing mother, I had to stick to a feeding and expressing schedule, including when I was at the airport, but I quickly realized that finding a clean, accessible, private space was stressful and inordinately difficult,” Duckworth wrote. She also made the point that given how unpredictable air travel is, women need to be accommodated so that they can stick to their schedule. Duckworth cited a 2014 survey of 100 U.S. airports that found that while 62 percent of the airports claimed to be breastfeeding-friendly, only 8 percent met the minimum requirements for a lactation room (a private space other than a bathroom providing a chair, table, and electrical outlet).

“While I was comfortable breastfeeding my daughter in public, I did not want to express next to strangers using the same outlets to recharge their electronic devices,” the senator wrote. “At many airports, I was redirected to a bathroom, forced to pump in a bathroom stall.” Encapsulating the absurdity of the predicament that so many women face, she wrote, “We would never ask our fellow travelers to eat their sandwiches in a bathroom, but there I was, expressing milk for my child on a toilet seat.”

“We are celebrating this passage as another piece of the puzzle for comprehensive breastfeeding support in our country,” interim executive director of the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) Amelia Psmythe said in a statement.

“This is a strong step forward toward a world where breastfeeding families across our country are seamlessly supported wherever they are—at their places of work, in their communities, in an airport, anywhere,” Mona Liza Hamlin, chair of the USBC, also said in the statement. “No one likes flight delays, but for people who are lactating, extra time in the airport can mean finding a place to express milk or risking a dwindling milk supply or even infection. We look forward to building on this momentum and continuing to support breastfeeding people and families in all places and spaces.”

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