Lawmakers push for lactation rooms for nursing moms in New York

NEW YORK — Re-entering the workforce for new mothers can be daunting, especially if they are breast feeding because many moms have no place to pump their milk while they work, but the City Council's Committee on Women passed a package of legislation Monday that aims to change that.

"As a society we often fall short when it comes to supporting parents and caregivers," City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said.

Many women have had to resort to pumping in the bathroom.

"It's not respectful of the amazing thing that the woman is doing," Rosenthal said.

The legislation would require most businesses with more than 15 workers to create lactation rooms so employees can pump milk. The rooms would need to be sanitary and private and have a chair, an electrical outlet and a surface for belongings. A refrigerator and running water would need to be nearby. Lactation rooms would also be required on city property at places like schools, health centers, jails and police precincts.

Ashley Rephlo now stays home with her two kids, but when she worked in Virginia after her first daughter was born, her employer created a lactation room. Many businesses in New York don't do that.

"Oh, it was awesome. It just made me feel I was valued as a mom," Rephlo said. "I could do both work and be a mom. And it just gave me the time to feel while I'm at work, I can still take care of my baby."

The bills are scheduled to go before the full City Council Wednesday. Rosenthal said she is confident it will pass. Under the pending legislation, if an employer is unable to comply, the company must explain why it is a hardship.