New York State Department of Health Recognizes National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week

Department Aims to Improve Health and Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease for Infants and Parents

Efforts Underway to Provide Inclusive Support and Remove Barriers to Nursing

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 4, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health today announced the observance of National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 – 7, 2023. Additionally, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) chose "Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents" as this year's World Breastfeeding Week theme. The Department promotes and supports breastfeeding and chestfeeding for the health of infants and parents and seeks to eliminate barriers faced by breastfeeding parents.

"As a pediatrician, I know firsthand the profound impact breastfeeding and chestfeeding can have on the health of both the baby and birth parent which is why it is critical that we reduce barriers in the hospital, workplace, and our communities so that all New York families have the comprehensive support needed to meet their infant feeding goals," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The Department of Health commends Governor Hochul on expanding the rights of nursing employees, providing workplace accommodations, and continuing to protect health care for all nursing people throughout our state."

Research shows that human milk provides unique nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from diseases such as ear infections, lower respiratory infections, and diarrhea, and decrease the risk for asthma, diabetes, and obesity later in life. Babies can consume human milk directly by breastfeeding or chestfeeding (a term used to describe feeding a baby from a person's chest), or by drinking expressed milk from a bottle or cup. For people who breastfeed, breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as diabetes.

Breastfeeding rates have increased over the past 20 years with more than 85 percent of New York infants initiating breastfeeding, yet disparities persist and rates are below national objectives. In New York, 22 percent of infants breastfed exclusively at 6 months and 38 percent continue to breastfeed at 12 months, rates well below the Healthy People 2030 objectives of 42 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

On June 7, 2023, amendments to a New York law became effective requiring all employers to provide expanded workplace accommodations for breast milk expression. The legislation, which was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul last December, also requires employers to implement a policy developed by the New York State Department of Labor establishing employee rights when expressing breast milk in the workplace. These new requirements ensure that all workers have the same safe, clean accommodations across the state.

This law requires all employers in New York State to provide convenient, private pumping spaces in the workplace that include seating, a table, or flat surface, an electrical outlet, and nearby access to running water. Employers must educate employees on their rights to express breast milk in the workplace by providing all employees with the new policy. This enhanced policy ensures all employers understand their responsibilities, and all workers know their rights regarding breast milk expression in the workplace. This guidance is the minimum standard by which all employers must comply. Employers are encouraged to include additional accommodations tailored to their workplace and the needs of their employees.

In April 2023, the Department announced $8.9 million in funding to support the implementation and expansion of locally-coordinated networks across the state that will promote and encourage breast/chest feeding and infant human milk feeding in priority communities. The Department's Breastfeeding, Chestfeeding, and Lactation Friendly New York (BFF-NY) program aims to increase local capacity and support to improve the continuity of care for breast/chest feeding and human milk feeding, especially in low income and racially/ethnically diverse communities, and to ultimately reduce breast/chest feeding health disparities.

The program also aims to be inclusive of all parents, including LGBTQ+ individuals, and lactation methods. Lack of structural and societal breast/chest feeding support prevents many families from starting and continuing breast/chest feeding. These barriers have a disproportionate impact on low-income and racial and ethnic minority communities, driving disparity gaps in breastfeeding rates in New York State.

Visit the Department's Breast/chestfeeding Promotion, Protection, and Support webpage at for additional information and resources.

The Department has partnered with the University at Albany-SUNY, Center for Public Health Continuing Education, to provide free training opportunities for health care, lactation, and public health professionals to support and promote breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and lactation. Continuing education credits are available for the following trainings: