BFB Guide to Legislative Change

Nice work, Babe! Taking the reins on legislative change is a big step, but a very important one. The laws we have now are all thanks to individuals who took the time to help mothers across the board by protecting their rights.
It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but many moms have done this before you, and would always be willing to help mentor a new advocate’s efforts. Don’t hesitate to e-mail us at for help as well, if you find the information overwhelming or just need some more guidance. We want to help you succeed!

Tips to Successfully Change Breastfeeding Legislation 
in Your State

  • Questions to ask about your state’s current legislation:
  1. Does the current law allow a mother to nurse in any place of public accommodation in which the mother is allowed to be?
  2. Is there an enforcement provision for nursing in public?
  3. Is there a work place pumping law?
  4. Does the work place law have an enforcement provision?
  5. Is the wording of any related lactation legislation left open to interpretation?
  6. Are there gray areas that could hinder a mother’s right to nurse in public?
  7. Is breastfeeding clearly written as being exempt from indecent exposure?
  8. Are breastfeeding mothers exempt from jury duty?
  • Do your homework! Here are some important things to know:
  1. Is there any legislation in the works? In most states you can research and view current bills in both the senate or the house online.
  2. Are there any groups working on legislation?
  3. What state breastfeeding advocacy groups are there in your state?
  4. Which legislator(s) sponsored/co-sponsored previous breastfeeding legislation?

Compose a team of individuals to work on the process. It is important to remain organized, focused and positive in presentation. You will need a few people to work on legislation. If you can find a mom versed in law or who has worked on successfully getting legislation passed before this is extremely helpful.

You will need a media team to help spread the word. Compile a data list of media contacts around the state to keep on hand. Include TV, newspaper, radio, and bloggers.
Utilize social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to gather a large amount of support.
Make sure you check out our Media Talking Points for Moms so you’re prepared to go face-to-face with the press.

The media love big events, like Nurse-Ins, and while we recommend Nurse-Ins are a last resort, they’re big attention getters. Make sure you’ve planned well and kept it positive with our Nurse-In Pointers.

Legislators love media attention so working the media and making sure your story gets media attention will help garner support from legislators and keep them engaged. You want legislators to be familiar with what you are trying to accomplish so that they are apprised when it sits before them and be interested.

Create a proposal to submit to legislators with your requests for change. What changes can be made to strengthen current Breastfeeding Laws? Make sure to go for the gusto and ask for everything possible because once a bill is introduced in regards to lactation it is typically a few years until a new bill on lactation will be considered again by legislators.

Check out our guide to Smart Legislation Word Choices, as well as our example of an actual proposed bill change for a more in-depth look at the chances you may want to aim for.

  • State Legislators

States have two houses typically called Senators and Representatives.
Compile a list of all the legislators names, office location and room number within the capitol building, e-mail address, phone numbers, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and any other contact information to use for references for correspondence.

Research if current legislators have supported any type of breastfeeding or similarly related types of legislation in the past — these legislators will be the first ones you approach with your proposal. It is also proper etiquette to let the legislator that sponsored any other breastfeeding bills have the first opportunity to sponsor any new breastfeeding bill.

  • State Advocacy Groups

Contact the advocacy groups and share with them that you will be approaching legislators with a proposal for legislative change. Ask them for pointers on which current legislators may be more willing to sponsor this type of legislation, ask them to give you some factual state level data on breastfeeding rates, money that can be saved within your state if legislators help support breastfeeding , current state level breastfeeding programs in place and any other state level related information they can provide you with. Most importantly, ask them if you can tell legislators that the advocacy group supports you and your efforts and use their name accordingly. Keep a list of any contacts for the advocacy groups on hand.

Your state’s legislation process and how to make your proposal bill a law!

First, you need a sponsor. You will take your proposed bill to legislators, and once a legislator agrees to sponsor your bill he/she will hand it over to their legal team to draft a bill.  If you can get your proposal sponsored as both a Senate bill by a Senator and a separate House bill by a Representative,  that is ideal.

Now that you have a sponsor(s), the next several days are typically back and forth emails, revisions, discussions between you and legal. Then finally you will have a bill draft and an agreement. (Remember you want to try to get as much on the bill as possible without being too pushy and making the legislator scrap the entire thing!) When media attention is reached, legislators suddenly show increased interest and want to be involved.

You will then want to find co-sponsors. The difference between sponsoring a bill and co-sponsoring would be like the difference between being first author or second author on a publication or research project. Sponsored legislation becomes part of their vita, it’s online for everyone to see and it can be tracked by constituents and anyone interested. Bi-partisan support is always good so look for both Republican and Democrats to sponsor/co-sponsor you bill.

Now that you have your sponsor, co-sponsors, and final bill draft back from legal, the bill draft gets “dropped” and assigned an official bill number and title. Once the bill is official and assigned a bill number it appears on the state website and you can track it’s progress online. Sometimes the legislator sponsoring your bill will have the inside scoop and know news ahead of time, but you may have to find out by calling the executive secretary and asking where it was going to show up next.

The bill is then assigned to a committee(s), which determine whether or not to pass the bill along to the next committee before eventually making it to the House or Senate floor. (The number of committees varies state to state, most states only have one health committee that breastfeeding legislation would fall under.)

Regularly e-mail every legislator on the committee asking for their support and a brief description of your bill and why it was so important to breastfeeding moms of your state, why it is beneficial monetarily to the state, and so on. Form emails or petitions simply get recycled/spammed/deleted so personal and brief messages are best. Dropping names and media coverage is a huge part of gaining support and attention, so getting as many people onboard with you can give you a major leg-up.

Sample e-mail:

Hello Rep Smith,
I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to ask your support for House Bill # ___, sponsored by Rep. X, Y, and Z. Currently the state law  states_______, however she is not truly protected because there is no enforcement of that law and is thus at risk of being bullied.
As a breastfeeding mom and advocate for mothers and children, I urge you to support this legislation as we take this to a new level and truly protect a woman’s right to breastfeed. We have already received media coverage from ___, ___ and ____.
I would love the chance to meet with you if you have the chance. Thanks for your time!
Sincerely, Sarah Jones

Once it’s assigned to a committee, you have to make sure it gets on the agenda. If the chair person doesn’t feel it’s a relevant issue, he/she has the liberty to scratch it from the agenda, and then it would be killed. Knowing ahead of time which committee(s) in your state the breastfeeding laws would fall under and setting up personal meetings with the chair person is preferable.

At any committee hearing the bill can be killed if the majority votes against it. That is why any time it is scheduled to appear on a committee’s agenda, you should try to show up. Your legislator sponsoring the bill should attend the committee hearing and address the panel, introduce the bill, and explain why he/she feels it is important. He/She can ask the panel for permission to allow you or another mom to take the floor for a few minutes. A physical presence is key because when it comes down to it, the legislator sponsoring the bill is just the vehicle, they will know very little about the bill or the law, but just enough to be able to present it to other legislators.

After passing the committee, the bill will be heard on the Senate or House floor for a vote. If your bill is a House bill it will be heard on the House floor . If your bill is a Senate bill it will be heard on the Senate floor. Most states have online viewing where you can watch live as the House and/or Senate decide on your bill. On cross-over day, a bill that successfully passed in the House goes to the Senate, or vice-versa for a vote.

Once the bill passes in both the Senate and the House then the governor could potentially veto it, but that is extremely rare. Keeping the governor apprised with e-mails, correspondence, and preferably with in person meetings is important as well.

As long as the Governor does not veto the passed bill then you officially have yourself a new law!

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