A bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President will make it compulsory for major U.S. airports to have nursing facilities for new moms. The legislation, now part of the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act, was drawn up in 2017 and officially became law on Oct. 5th as part of government approval to maintain the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years.
The new stipulation will affect large and mid-sized airports across the country, although the top 10 U.S. airports that include those in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver already have facilities. Those were installed at the discretion of the airport authorities at each location. The act will allow for funding to provide such rooms to airports that don't have such rooms available.
In particular, new moms will have access to what the act refers to as lactation rooms, located in passenger terminals at each airport. Besides airports making amends for such rooms, a number of conditions must be met. The facilities must be available to the public and located behind security. They also need to be shielded from view, not allow for intrusion and include a door that can be locked from inside. Additionally, the areas must include some vital furniture and amenities such as a place to sit, a table or other flat surface above the floor, and include an electrical outlet. The rooms must be disabled-friendly, especially to passengers in wheelchairs, and cannot be in a bathroom.
The bill, which was introduced in a bi-partisan effort by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and representative Stephen Knight (R-CA), managed to get through Congress without opposition. It also received the full blessing of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, although such a law was a long time coming. According to the committee, without these facilities, women who breastfeed at airports would otherwise face a number of social barriers including harassment or face additional challenges like finding a clean area to do any nursing tasks involving the baby.
As early as 2014, a study revealed that 62 percent of the top 100 U.S. airports declared they were breastfeeding-friendly, although only 8 percent of the locations didn't even have the barest of requirements for new and lactating mothers.