Thanks to the bill — named the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act (FAM) of 2017 — all large and medium airports must have a lactation room in each building. And uncomfortably nursing in a public bathroom will be a thing of the past, as one of the requirements is that the lactation room is separate from the airport bathrooms.
FAM also lays out a few more provisions, including that the lactation rooms have a door that can lock, are fully accessible to people with disabilities and include seating, a table or other flat surface and an electrical outlet. Plus, all men’s and women’s restrooms in the airport must have a changing table.
The bill was introduced in May 2017 as bipartisan legislation from Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Stephen Knight (R-CA). It was later incorporated into the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that President Trump signed on Oct. 5.
Duckworth, who became the first Senator to give birth in office when daughter Maile arrived on April 9, wrote in an op-ed that she wanted to make airports more breastfeeding-friendly after poor experiences while traveling with her older daughter Abigail, now 3.
“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,” she wrote in Cosmopolitan in Sept. 2017. “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. At many airports, I was redirected to a bathroom, forced to pump in a bathroom stall. 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.”
Duckworth added that the lactation rooms would come out of airports’ existing improvement funds — with no additional cost to taxpayers.
“If a mother chooses to breastfeed their child, she should not have to worry about whether she can find a clean, private place to nurse or express breast milk while she’s traveling; she has enough to worry about already,” she said.
Mona Liza Hamlin, the chair of the U.S. Breastfeeding Coalition, said in a statement that the passage of the FAM Act is an important move towards better support for breastfeeding mothers.
“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,” she said. “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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