San Francisco moves toward new policy in support of breastfeeding moms

San Francisco could soon have a citywide policy that would require employers to have a lactation workplace policy and provide a space for returning mothers to breastfeed their baby.

Supervisor Katy Tang on Tuesday introduced the proposed legislation at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. At a press conference Tuesday morning, Tang said her Legislative Aide Ashley Summers inspired her bring forth the proposed legislation when Summers returned to work after giving birth:

“It was actually because of her that I understood the challenges that new mothers face returning to work.”

The proposed legislation would require employers to create and carry out a policy that would give employees the right to request accommodations to breastfeed.

Employers must also provide a private space for employees to breastfeed. The space must be clean, safe and free of hazardous materials. It must provide a surface area to place a breast pump and other personal items. The room must have place to sit and an electrical outlet nearby.

A refrigerator and sink with running water must be near the employees work area.

The legislation would also require new construction buildings of at least 10,000 square feet to have lactation accommodations and buildings making renovations of at least 10,000 square feet if a project is cost is more than $1 million.

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would be required to create a lactation accommodation policy model and provide best practices to help guide employers.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, one of the cosponsors of the legislation, said a bathroom is not a suitable option for mothers to breastfeed:

“Many employers still think that general bathrooms are an appropriate location for lactating mothers. I certainly do not.”

Cohen worked with building staff inside City Hall to convert a bathroom on the second floor into a lactation room.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who also supports the legislation, said it was important for mothers to breastfeed in private:

“In this society, where we sexualize breasts, it is necessary for woman to do this in private.”

Julia Parish, an attorney for Legal to Aid, said she hears from women who return to work and want to continue breastfeeding, but are afraid to approach their employer:

“More often I hear from women who have no idea that they are allowed do pump when they return to work or they’re simply too afraid to approach the supervisor to ask.”

Parish said this was especially true for low-wage employees who may fear retaliation or fear of losing their job:

“Access to a clean, safe space and simply not facing negative consequences at work, should not be among those factors.”