Should Federal Buildings Be Required to Provide Lactation Spaces for Visiting Nursing Mothers?

Should federally owned or leased buildings be required to provide private lactation spaces for female visitors? One lawmaker thinks they should.

Should federally owned or leased buildings be required to provide private lactation spaces for nursing mothers who visit them? One lawmaker thinks they should.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced legislation (H.R. 4439) that would require federally owned or leased buildings to provide private, hygienic lactation spaces for visitors and guests to pump or breastfeed.

Federal workers who may be concerned about lactation spaces in federal buildings needn’t worry; federal law already provides that they be provided to employees in federal buildings. Norton is seeking to expand upon that with her bill by extending the privilege to tourists and guests.

In a statement on the legislation, Norton said that nursing mothers who visit federal buildings should also be entitled to appropriate, private places to pump breast milk for their babies. The bill does not require that an exclusive space be permanently set aside only for lactation, but assumes space availability as needed.

The bill provides the following exceptions with respect to when lactation rooms would be required in federal buildings:

  • The building does not contain a lactation room for employees who work in the building and does not have a room that could be repurposed as a lactation room or a space that could be made private using portable materials, at a reasonable cost
  • New construction would be required to create a lactation room in the public building and the cost of such construction is unfeasible

“Federal policy has long encouraged nursing, and federal facilities should be the first to reflect this policy,” Norton said. “The nation’s capital is a major tourist destination and nursing mothers visiting here have every reason to expect access to appropriate lactation spaces that are also used by federal employees, as needed.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.