CHICAGO — As the school year begins, districts across Illinois will face a new requirement to aid breast-feeding students.
The law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last month takes effect Jan. 1, the Chicago Tribune reported . It requires public schools to provide a room, other than a bathroom, with an electrical outlet for nursing mothers.
Students must also have access to a refrigerator to store their milk and can’t be penalized for time away from academics because they were pumping.
Some school district officials say they’re already making accommodations for nursing mothers but that they’ll solidify policies to comply with the law.
The statute doesn’t specify whether teachers or staff can use the room.
Advocates for pregnant and parenting teens support the law, but say breast-feeding is just one of many obstacles teen mothers face when trying to finish their education.
Illinois data show that breast-feeding remains an unpopular choice among young mothers compared with women who have children well after high school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing to do so with the introduction of solid foods until at least a year.
An annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health shows that most teenage mothers try breast-feeding but switch to formula in the first few weeks more often than older mothers do.
“We just want to make sure we have healthy babies and a supportive environment for young mothers,” said Rep. Sonya Harper, a Chicago Democrat who proposed the law. “They have so much to worry about already.”