Dems propose expansion of work flexibilities for nursing mothers

The Supporting Working Moms Act, introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would seek to expand current law to cover millions of salaried workers.

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Merkley said a recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report illustrates why it's necessary to expand the program. That report said businesses that give more leniency to breastfeeding mothers experience "lower health care costs, lower rates of absenteeism, and better retention of experienced employees."

"Breastfeeding is good for babies, it's good for moms, and it's good for business," Merkley said in a statement released on his website.

The HHS report, "The Business Case for Breastfeeding," said that on average, each milk expression session lasts a little more than 15 minutes long, and that breastfeeding employees usually need no more than an hour each work day to tend to that process.

So far, Merkley's legislation has garnered local support from Dr. Marion Rice, the Director of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon as well as Portland's Chief of Police, Mike Reese. The measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Merkley also has a partner in Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who yesterday introduced H.R. 1941, which is the House companion bill.