New Hampshire event part of Stand With Women campaign to secure public policy advances for women and their families
CONCORD, NH – Elected leaders and advocates for women and their families kicked off World Breastfeeding Week at the New Hampshire State House today with calls for family-friendly workplace and public policies. The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make It Work.”
“More women than ever are working outside the home, heading households and leading in the workplace,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress & Education Fund. “Though times have changed, policies and rules have lagged behind. We must work to prioritize laws to guarantee that women have full and fair opportunities to succeed and raise healthy families. One way to do that is to stand with women and support workplace policies that protect women from discrimination, harassment, and maternity penalties on the job.”
Speakers at the press conference highlighted SB 219 as an example of one of those polices. The bill would ensure all working nursing mothers have reasonable break time and a sanitary, private location – other than the bathroom – to express breast milk. Federal law currently only covers hourly workers. SB 219 successfully passed in the Senate earlier this year, but was retained in House Commerce.
“We stand with New Hampshire women in support of their right to breastfeed where and when their babies need and their right to work place friendly lactation policies that allow them to express their milk during work breaks so that their children may continue to receive the proven benefits of breastmilk even when Mom is not nearby,” said Kary Jencks, executive director of NH Citizens Alliance. “As a mother who breast fed all three of my children I personally know the importance of creating breastfeeding supportive communities and workplaces.”
Bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, stated that, “SB 219 has my support, the support of the full Senate, and the support of the BIA because the bill will reasonably accommodate breast feeding families and support the businesses who employ them, improving New Hampshire’s productivity and making it an even better state to live and work.”
Prime bill sponsor, Senator Martha Fuller Clark, stated that, “SB 219 is an attempt to address the fact many working women never undertake breastfeeding or stop nursing their children upon returning to work because they have no access to decent accommodation at their place of employment. Nationally when women stop breastfeeding prematurely, a total of $126.1 million in indirect costs is incurred in time away from work for sick employees and babies. Women make up half the workforce and are the primary breadwinners in 41% of families with children. And of the more than 350,000 working women in New Hampshire today, nearly half are between the ages of 20 and 44 – prime years for giving birth to children. Passage of SB 219 would encourage working mothers to breastfeed their children. It would help to ensure healthy and prosperous families and save New Hampshire businesses many thousands of dollars in sick days and the loss of able and skilled women employees.”
On the federal level, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte are working on legislation to protect pregnant women and nursing mothers in the work place. Representatives from each office issued a statement for the “Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make It Work” press conference:
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen: “As Governor, I was pleased to sign into law the Breastfeeding Bill which protects the rights of mothers in New Hampshire to breastfeed in public. I was also proud to support the breastfeeding provisions in the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance plans to cover breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling with no co-pay. I continue to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that these provisions are implemented as Congress intended. Women should have every right to reasonable workplace accommodations as they provide for their families and contribute to the economy. That’s why I introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This legislation would ensure that expectant mothers are not forced out of their jobs simply because they need minor adjustments to their duties to continue working during pregnancy. As more womenwork longer into their pregnancies, they should have the confidence that their safety, health and financial security are not at risk. And when they return to work following childbirth, they deserve every opportunity to provide for their child without retaliation or interference.”
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte: “As someone who worked during both of my pregnancies and also breastfed, I understand the challenges facing pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. To ensure that pregnant workers and nursing moms are treated equally in the workplace, Senator Shaheen and I recently introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), bipartisan legislation that would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and new moms. The PWFA is modeled on the legal standard in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and would ensure that pregnant workers and nursing moms are able to continue working while protecting them from being forced to take unpaid time off or leave their jobs altogether. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
Also at the press conference was Christine Dodson, co-founder of Mamava which creates lactation and breastfeeding stations, including the one at Fenway Park.
“When the idea for Mamava first struck, we were nursing mothers working for a breastfeeding friendly employer, and benefiting from Vermont’s progressive breastfeeding laws. At work we had a place to pump and the break time to do it. It was when we traveled for business that we ran in to challenges, often having to pump in restrooms, cars, and storage closets. We thought about all the other moms in other states, with less supportive employers and challenged ourselves to find a way to make it easier for mamas to meet their breastfeeding goals, and employers and communities to support them. So our free standing lactation suite was conceived from a place of empathy by nursing mothers who had to hit the road with our breast pumps. As it takes hold as an amenity for pumping and nursing we think of it as a billboard communicating that there are many, many breastfeeding moms who could use all the help they can get, actually bringing the discussion into the open – not hiding it in a bathroom stall or under a blanket.”
Following the press conference, Terie Norelli, President of the NH Women’s Foundation, led a count-down to the Big Latch On, a synchronized worldwide breastfeeding event at 10:30 am on July 31st and August 1st to raise awareness during World Breastfeeding Week.
The New Hampshire World Breastfeeding Week kick-off and day of events were hosted by NH Citizens Alliance, Granite State Progress & Education Fund, the NH Breastfeeding Rights Coalition & The Rustik Baby Project, with sponsor support.
About World Breastfeeding Week
On the 1st – 7th of August every year, to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and the need for global support, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action organizes World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in 120 countries and marks the signing of the WHO/UNICEF Innocenti Declaration, which lists the benefits of breastfeeding plus global and governmental goals. To mark the occasion, on Friday July 31st and Saturday August 1st at 10:30 am thousands of breastfeeding women and their babies/children across the world gather in their own communities to take part in the Global Big Latch On, a synchronized breastfeeding event in multiple locations. Breastfeeding contributes to the normal growth and development of children, and children who are not breastfed are at increased risk of infant morbidity and mortality, adult obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer (both mom and baby.) The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life to optimize these benefits, continuing to breastfeed for 2 years and as long thereafter as is mutually desired by a woman and her child. The New Hampshire Statewide Big Latch On took place during the kick-off and press conference at the NH Statehouse; additional Big Latch On’s were scheduled in Dover, Littleton, and Meredith.
About the Stand With Women Campaign
Times have changed. Today, women are central to our families and our economy. More women than ever are working outside the home, heading households and leading in the workplace. We must take action now to ensure that women have equal rights and receive fair treatment on the job, in health care and in the new economy. The Stand With Women campaign in New Hampshire is led by NH Citizens Alliance and Granite State Progress Education Fund.