Representative Maloney Speaks on her Breastfeeding Legislation at the National WIC Association’s 22nd Annual Washington Leadership Conference
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), spoke to national WIC Association members at their annual conference to discuss breastfeeding and other policy initiatives affecting the WIC program.
“It is a pleasure to be here today at the National WIC Association’s 22nd Annual Washington Leadership Conference. I am honored to be among so many prominent health and nutritional specialists, friends, and fellow advocates for policies that protect, promote, and encourage breastfeeding.
I would like to thank Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway for inviting me to speak today. As a champion for breastfeeding, you have greatly helped in the fight for women to receive both the health and economic benefits they deserve. And I would also like to thank Senator Jeff Merkley, a longtime supporter of breastfeeding, who has been a wonderful partner on this issue and advocate in the Senate.
As we know, breastfeeding is a low cost, fairly low maintenance way to protect mothers and children from a wide range of diseases and in turn, saves money for all of society. That is why I have been a long-time supporter of breastfeeding-friendly policies in Congress.
Since 1998, I’ve been working on the issue of breastfeeding access and promotion when I introduced a comprehensive bill promoting breastfeeding and protecting women who choose to breastfeed. A provision of that larger bill that would allow states to spend more money on breastfeeding promotion and support through your WIC nutrition program was enacted into law.
In 1999, my right to breastfeed amendment was passed as part of the FY 2000 budget, ensuring a woman's right to breastfeed her child on any portion of Federal property where the woman and her child are otherwise allowed to be.
And of course, most recently, I worked with Senator Merkley to pass the very important part of our bill, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, into law as part of the Patient and Affordable Care Act. This recent achievement, which WIC greatly helped to attain, requires employers with over 50 hourly wage employees to provide a private space and unpaid break time during the workday for mothers to breastfeed.
Women cannot be discriminated against or fired for breastfeeding or pumping breast milk during breaks or lunch. In addition employers who establish special rooms for breastfeeding mothers or that rent lactation-related equipment are provided tax breaks. And though together we were successful in enacting this provision into law, we need to get the other provisions enacted…and that is where you all come in.
Senator Merkley and I have reintroduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act (H.R. 2758/S. 1463) in the 112th Congress which builds on our success in the last Congress and expands the Breastfeeding Provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Cover Salaried Office Workers. It also protects breastfeeding under civil rights law to ensure that women cannot be fired or discriminated against for expressing milk in the workplace.
We need your support and advocacy. We need your voices to ensure that the American public has the support to breastfeed and that they really know about all of the benefits of breastfeeding. We need to work together to solve these problems and educate people.
I know that all of you that are here today are here because of your commitment to ensuring the right breastfeeding policies are put in place.
We won a significant battle with the inclusion of our provision in the health care reform package, and I am certain that focusing on the numerous health benefits, within the larger health care debate, enabled us to put the spotlight on this issue.
It’s truly a “no-brainer” – when health care costs are sky-rocketing and stakeholders’ efforts are focused on preventive care, reducing costs, and ensuring our kids are healthy – breastfeeding is an obvious place to start. Public opinion and awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding continue to grow.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been a tireless advocate on the issue of childhood obesity, and I am so pleased by her efforts to highlight breastfeeding as an essential part of healthy living and combating obesity. The Obama Administration’s White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity named breastfeeding among its recommendations for solving the nation’s obesity epidemic,
While breastfeeding in important for the health of mothers and their children, is also is important for businesses and our economy.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 56% of mothers with infants under 1 year of age work. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of mothers return to work within three months of giving birth, two-thirds within six months. Not only does a work environment accommodating breastfeeding mothers promote a happier work force but also promotes more mothers to begin working after child birth.
Also, employers benefit from increased employee productivity through reduced missed workdays by parents with sick infants and significant savings through reduced health care costs. According to a study on maternal absenteeism in the American Journal of Health Promotion, one-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as often for mothers of formula feeding infants than those who breastfeed.
While breastfeeding is not the only choice for mothers, businesses should see the benefits to accommodating mothers with the option. I am encouraged by recent developments and the attention this issue is receiving.
I truly believe the tide is turning in the public perception of breastfeeding, and the momentum we’ve recently gained presents the perfect opportunity to build on that progress in achieving our goals.
Thanks to all of you for your dedication to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. I look forward to working with all of you to ensure all women who breastfeed have the support they need.