More than 57% of Connecticut's workforce is women and Connecticut lawmakers are looking to make it easier for nursing moms to reenter or stay in the workforce.
It’s “well documented there are many benefits to breastfeeding for both the mom and the child,” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, said.
Gilchrest said Connecticut already has a law that requires employers to give nursing mothers a separate location to express their milk. The bill the House passed will expands on that.
Aside from providing a private, secure room to express milk, employers will be required to provide an electric outlet and a refrigerator where breast milk can be stored.
Opponents of the legislation said it’s too much to ask of employers.
“My concern to this bill is that I don’t see businesses not providing these already valuable services and so many important accommodations for women,” Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, said.
Mastrofrancesco said it could create an undue hardship for a small business.
“You could be working at a gas station or a little convenience store and you don’t have a private room. They may have to add on an addition to their building,” Mastrofrancesco said.
Mastrofrancesco doesn’t dispute the benefits of breastfeeding.
“While 79% of mothers start out breastfeeding that number drops down to about 50% at six months and then drops down to 25% at 12 months and the statistics are even lower for low-income moms," Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, said.
“As legislators, we have the benefit of having private offices, and we have a lactation room at the capitol with privacy, with access to electrical outlets,” Simmons continued.
She said many mothers are not as fortunate.
“I’ve heard from mothers who work at fast-food restaurants who were told they should just go do this in their car,” she said.
“That’s not fair, that’s not right, that’s not just,” she added.
The House passed the bill 131 to 10. It now heads to the Senate.