All Major U.S. Airports Are Now Required by Law to Have Private Lactation Rooms for Moms

Mom breastfeeds her child in the airport waiting room, because no lactation rooms are available.
Image Source: Thinkstock

If you ask me, working moms who pump are heroes in their own right. Not only are they regularly faced with a ton of challenges when it comes to keeping up their hectic breastfeeding and pumping schedules, but they also often have to deal with unsupportive workplaces and less than stellar accommodations.

When they have to travel for work, things get even trickier. Although some airports have made awesome strides when it comes to accommodating these moms, it can still be really hard to find a comfortable, private place to pump while on the go.

A 2014 study, for example, found that while 62% of airports call themselves “breastfeeding friendly,” only 8% actually had lactation rooms that were private and properly equipped with chairs, outlets, and tables.

Pretty astonishing, huh?

Well, it looks like that will soon be changing, thanks to a bill commissioned by Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and her colleagues that was just signed into law by the president.

It’s called the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, and it will require all large and medium-sized U.S. airports to provide mothers with “clean, accessible and private lactation rooms when traveling.” What’s more, these lactation rooms will need to be in every terminal, so you don’t have to rush around the entire airport looking for a place to pump!

The bill, which is part of the 5-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), also includes provisions to protect people with disabilities, offers aid to small airports in Illinois to update their infrastructure, and requires all airport bathrooms — women and men’s — to have baby changing tables (another huge win for parents!).

For Senator Duckworth, who became the first sitting senator to give birth this year, the heart of the bill is about supporting breastfeeding moms as they travel.

It’s personal for Duckworth too, who shared some of her own struggles with pumping at airports last year in an interview with CBS’s Face The Nation:

“I would go into airports and well, it’s the handicapped stall in the public toilet, and I was like, ‘That’s disgusting,'” she said. “‘You wouldn’t eat a sandwich there, why would you think I should nurse my baby there or pump breast milk there?'”

Soon after, the Senator was inspired to further legislation that would finally address this. In a 2017 editorial for Cosmopolitan, she described the work she was already doing in preparation for the bill to pass:

“It was humiliating,” she wrote, speaking of her past pumping experiences at airports. “[A]nd so I tried to pass some legislation on it and it’s out of committee — mandatory nursing rooms for moms, at airports — and hopefully we’ll get an FAA bill and it will become law.”

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, was met with zero opposition, and was finally signed into law on October 5.

The passing of the bill is obviously a proud moment for Duckworth — and a major triumph for all the many moms who will benefit from having a clean, safe, private place to pump milk for their babies.

“With the Senate passing my proposals, new mothers who are traveling through airports will no longer need to turn to bathroom stalls to feed their children,” the Senator remarked in an official statement on her website.

It should be noted that this bill is just one of many ways that Senator Duckworth has become a champion for working mothers. After the birth of her second child, Maile, she fought and won the right to bring her daughter to work and became the first Senator to cast a vote with a baby in her arms — all of this thanks to a rule change that Duckworth helped orchestrate.

So let’s give it up for Senator Duckworth and all the amazing working moms out there who are getting it done each and every day — while changing the world at the very same time.

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