Daley: Failure to enact workplace accommodations for nursing mothers is exacerbating the baby formula shortage

We are facing a baby formula crisis in which mothers searching for formula are visiting stores with empty shelves or are paying grossly overcharged amounts to simply provide nutrients for their babies.

There is a confluence of reasons why this is occurring, including a recall by one of the industry's largest manufacturers, persistent supply-chain issues, and a market dominated by only a few manufacturers.

While supply-chain issues caused by the pandemic are unavoidable, there are still policy choices that have long caused a dependence on baby formula.

Currently, in Pennsylvania, without a comprehensive paid family leave law, mothers can be forced back into work quickly after birth. Once they are at work, nursing mothers may not be guaranteed to have a reasonable accommodation to pump breast milk. Without time to breastfeed at home or the ability to pump breast milk in a private and sanitary place during work, the opportunity to breastfeed is nonexistent for far too many new mothers.

My legislation, H.B. 1739, would require reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers. These accommodations include providing a private, sanitary space – not a restroom – where an employee can express milk and providing unpaid break time or allowing an employee to use paid break, mealtime, or both to express milk. 

The refusal of the majority party to even call up H.B. 1739 hurts children and mothers. The formula shortage is bringing those harms to light. This is the fifth session that this bill has been introduced, but it has yet to receive a vote. While my bill will not immediately solve the shortage, it will provide more options for mothers to breastfeed and lessen the reliance on formula. 

Those trying to locate baby formula should visit this page from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/formula/index.html.