Jan 6, 1998
Press Release

It's a tough job being a working mother: you have two full-time jobs and you must do them both well. Those jobs can become even tougher when employers discriminate against new mothers who want to breast-feed or express milk at the office. Breast-feeding has long been touted as healthy for babies, and now a new study published in the January issue of Pediatrics concludes that breast-fed babies are smarter. But the more than 50 percent of all new mothers who work all too often find their civil rights trampled upon when they try to breast-feed at work.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney's (D-NY), who was the first woman on the New York City Council to give birth while in office, has unveiled legislation to protect the rights of working mothers who wish to breast-feed. Her legislation would also encourage employers to support workplace lactation programs.

"It is unimaginable that women are being discriminated against by their employers because they wish to breast-feed," Maloney said. "But sadly, it happens too often. I have met women whose jobs have been threatened because they expressed milk in the office and those who have been ordered by their employers to pump in their cars."

"We have the Academy of Pediatrics calling for mothers to nurse for at least one year and now a study showing that breast-feeding your child can make a significant impact on a child's cognitive ability. How can we not make breast-feeding and lactation programs at the workplace a priority?" she said.

Maloney's bill, tentatively titled the "New Mothers' Breast-feeding Promotion and Protection Act," calls for the protection of breast-feeding under the civil rights law, requiring that women cannot be discriminated against for breast-feeding and related activities. It provides a tax break to employers who set up a safe, private and sanitary environment for women to express milk; grants working women up to one hour per workday for one year following the birth of a child for breast milk breaks; and requires the FDA to develop minimum standards for breast pumps.

"Working mothers who wish to breast-feed their children should not be penalized," said Maloney. "With the difficulty women face in the workplace and the sheer number of women who work, it's no wonder the United States has one of the lowest breast-feeding rates of all industrialized nations and one of the highest rates of infant mortality."