The United States has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the industrialized world and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. Identifying the need to support mothers when they decide to breastfeed, several pieces of legislation are being introduced to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed and to promote breastfeeding among working mothers. Recently, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act was introduced in both houses of Congress on June 11, 2009, to provide a unified national policy to promote the health of mothers, children and communities. The Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace. The Act also provides tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace and allows breastfeeding equipment and consultation services to be tax deductible for families.
Most states have enacted breastfeeding laws permitting mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location. The laws also provide that breastfeeding does not constitute indecent exposure or other criminal behavior. For instance, as many as 43 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location and 28 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.
States including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. The state of Virginia has gone one step further to permit women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state.
Many states have enacted laws to require public places to have accessible areas designed for breastfeeding that are not bathrooms. There are state laws which require licensed child care facilities to provide breastfeeding mothers with a sanitary place that is not a toilet to breastfeed their children.