Commercial airports in the United States are now required to provide nursing rooms in accordance with the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act (FAM) of 2017, USA Today reported. The act was part of the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed by President Trump on October 5.
While many airports already provide areas for nursing mothers, they were added “at their own discretion.” Now, however, they are required to be provided at each terminal in all large- and medium-sized airports.
The rooms, known as mother’s rooms, nursing pods or breastfeeding stations, are designed to give moms an area to breastfeed a child or pump breast milk.
There are other provisions for them as well. The lactation areas must be available to the public, be behind security, be shielded from view and free from intrusion, and may not be in a bathroom, according to USA Today. They must also be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, be wheelchair friendly, and are required to include a place to sit, an electrical outlet and a table or other flat surface.
The act also required airports to provide a baby-changing table in at least one men’s and women’s restroom in each passenger terminal building.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a mother of two, originally introduced the bill in 2015, Yahoo! Lifestyle reported. She was the first senator to give birth in office and was “known for breastfeeding her little one while on the job.”
I’m so proud my bipartisan FAM Act was signed into law. This long-awaited law will help improve children’s health and help hardworking mothers across our country find clean and accessible spaces to express breastmilk when traveling.— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) October 9, 2018
In 2017, Duckworth wrote an op-ed piece for Cosmopolitan.
“As a nursing mother, I had to stick to a feeding and expressing schedule, including when I was at the airport, but I quickly realized that finding a clean, accessible, private space was stressful and inordinately difficult,” she wrote. “While I was comfortable breastfeeding my daughter in public, I did not want to express next to strangers using the same outlets to recharge their electronic devices. At many airports, I was redirected to a bathroom, forced to pump in a bathroom stall.”
“We would never ask our fellow travelers to eat their sandwiches in a bathroom, but there I was, expressing milk for my child on a toilet seat. And studies show my experience was far too common among traveling moms,” she added.
Senator Duckworth (D-IL), with representative Stephen Knight (R-CA), re-introduced the bipartisan bills in May 2017. They were later incorporated into FAA Reauthorization bills where “they were met without opposition,” USA Today reported.
“This is a strong step forward toward a world where breastfeeding families across our country are seamlessly supported wherever they are–at their places of work, in their communities, in an airport, anywhere,” chair of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee Mona Liza Hamlin said in a written statement. “No one likes flight delays but for people who are lactating, extra time in the airport can mean finding a place to express milk or risking a dwindling milk supply or even infection. We look forward to building on this momentum and continuing to support breastfeeding people and families in all spaces.”
The bill makes grants available to airports to help with the renovations needed to fulfill the requirements, which must be met by October 1, 2020.