The Kansas Capitol has joined more than 300 work sites across the state in providing accommodations for breastfeeding employees, a move that Gov.-elect Laura Kelly said “makes us finally a 21st-century employer.”
The private lactation room on the first floor of the Statehouse was unveiled Friday.
“All I really want to say is, it’s about time,” Kelly said. “What I would like to do as we move forward is that in every policy that we make and in every regulation that we pass, that we consider the impact on working families, particularly mothers.”
Kelly said her administration is also going to look into breastfeeding facilities at other state office buildings.
Adding spaces for breastfeeding is a growing trend in the state, said Brenda Bandy, executive director of Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition.
“This has truly become the people’s building,” she said. “This space is available not only to the hundreds of employees in the building, but the thousands of women that come through the doors that are here for work or for visiting.”
Breastfeeding provides health benefits for children and mothers and makes sense for work places, she said.
“Employers are able to recruit and retain employees,” Bandy said, adding that employees see decreased health care costs and lower absenteeism.
Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, said support for breastfeeding families was important to mothers, children and the rest of society.
“It’s been estimated that improved breastfeeding rates in Kansas could save our state over $26 million in medical costs,” he said. “That’s significant. So it’s something that we can be behind and support.”
Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, helped implement the initiative. As she held her young son at the lectern, she said he was 3 months old when the legislative session ended last year.
“For me as a lawmaker, I had access to an office, the speaker let me use his conference room,” Horn said. “I had access to space. And I realized, though, that for other staff members in the building, lobbyists, advocates, women who visit the Capitol, that just isn’t the case.”
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, recalled the hurdles his wife went through while breastfeeding, including being told by her employer that it was allowed as long as it wasn’t disruptive and receiving strange looks. Ward said he wanted to send the message that breastfeeding isn’t disruptive but normal.
Kelly, who will be inaugurated on Monday, said she was “so honored that this is sort of my very first official act.”
She said she is looking forward to Tuesday.
“I want to get to work,” Kelly said.