Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights

Choosing how to feed her new baby is one of the important decisions a mother can make in preparing for her infant's arrival. Doctors agree that for most women, breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest choice. It is your right to be informed about the benefits of breastfeeding, and to have your health care provider, maternal health care facility, and child day care facility encourage and support breastfeeding. You have the right to make your own choice about breastfeeding. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, you have the rights listed below, regardless of your race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or source of payment for your health care.

Maternal health care facilities have a responsibility to ensure that you understand these rights. They must provide this information clearly for you, and must provide an interpreter, if necessary. These rights may be limited only in cases where your health or the health of your baby requires it.

If any of the following things are not medically right for you or your baby, you should be fully informed of the facts and be consulted.

(1) Before You Deliver:

If you attend prenatal childbirth education classes (those provided by the maternal health care facility and by all hospital clinics and diagnostic and treatment centers providing prenatal services in accordance with Article 28 of the Public Health Law), then you must receive the Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights. Each maternal health care facility shall provide the maternity information leaflet, including the Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights, to each patient or to the appointed personal representative at the time of prebooking or time of admission to a maternal health care facility.

You have the right to receive complete information about the benefits of breastfeeding for yourself and your baby. This will help you make an informed choice on how to feed your baby.

You have the right to receive information that is free of commercial interests and includes:

  • How breastfeeding benefits you and your baby nutritionally, medically and emotionally;
  • How to prepare yourself for breastfeeding;
  • How to understand some of the problems you may face and how to solve them.

(2) In The Maternal Health Care Facility:

  • You have the right to have your baby stay with you right after birth, whether you deliver vaginally or by cesarean section.
  • You have the right to begin breastfeeding within one hour after birth.
  • You have the right to get help from someone who is trained in breastfeeding.
  • You have the right to have your baby not receive any bottle feeding or pacifiers.
  • You have the right to know about and refuse any drugs that may dry up your milk.
  • You have the right to have your baby in your room with you 24 hours a day.
  • You have the right to breastfeed your baby at any time day or night.
  • You have the right to know if your doctor or your baby's pediatrician is advising against breastfeeding before any feeding decisions are made.
  • You have the right to have a sign on your baby's crib clearly stating that your baby is breastfeeding and that no bottle feeding of any type is to be offered.
  • You have the right to receive full information about how you are doing with breastfeeding, and to get help on how to improve.
  • You have the right to breastfeed your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. If nursing is not possible, every attempt will be made to have your baby receive your pumped or expressed milk.
  • If you – or your baby – are re-hospitalized in a maternal health care facility after the initial delivery stay, the hospital will make every effort to continue to support breastfeeding, and to provide hospital-grade electric pumps and rooming-in facilities.
  • You have the right to get help from someone specially trained in breastfeeding support, if your baby has special needs.
  • You have the right to have a family member or friend receive breastfeeding information from a staff member, if you request it.

(3) When You Leave The Maternal Health Care Facility:

  • You have the right to printed breastfeeding information free of commercial material.
  • You have the right, unless specially requested by you, and available at the facility, to be discharged from the facility without discharge packs containing infant formula, or formula coupons unless ordered by your baby's health care provider.
  • You have the right to get information about breastfeeding resources in your community, including information on availability of breastfeeding consultants, support groups, and breast pumps.
  • You have the right to have the facility give you information to help you choose a medical provider for your baby, and to help you understand the importance of a follow-up appointment.
  • You have the right to receive information about safely collecting and storing your breast milk.
  • You have the right to breastfeed your baby in any location, public or private, where you are otherwise authorized to be. Complaints can be directed to the New York State Division of Human Rights.
  • You have a right to breastfeed your baby at your place of employment or child day care center in an environment that does not discourage breastfeeding or the provision of breast milk.
  • Under section 206-c of the Labor Law, for up to three years following childbirth, you have the right to take reasonable unpaid break time or to use paid break time or meal time each day, so that you can express breast milk at work. Your employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or another location, in close proximity to your work area, where you can express breast milk in private. Your employer may not discriminate against you based on your decision to express breast milk at work. Complaints can be directed to the New York State Department of Labor.

These are your rights. If the maternal health care facility does not honor these rights, you can seek help by contacting the New York State Department of Health, or by contacting the hospital complaint hotline at 1-800-804-5447; or via email at hospinfo@health.ny.gov.