February 08, 2022

Duckworth and Tillis Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Breastfeeding Moms During Natural Disasters


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help ensure that disaster relief efforts provide comprehensive support to all parents and infants, including guaranteeing nursing parents’ ability to continue to breastfeed in times of crisis. The Delivering Essentials to Mothers Amid Natural Disasters (DEMAND) Act would help ensure that the equipment needed to help support breastfeeding is specifically highlighted and covered for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s individual assistance program. The DEMAND Act was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and John Katko (R-NY-24).

“I know how difficult being a new mom is, so I can’t imagine also having to worry about where my baby’s next bottle is coming from in a time of crisis,” Duckworth said. “In the aftermath of a tornado, flooding, or any other kind of natural disaster, it’s critical that survivors have access to what they need for their families—and for nursing moms, that means access to lactation support. I’m proud to introduce the DEMAND Act with Senator Tillis and Representatives Underwood and Katko to help make sure FEMA’s coverage is clear and understandable. It’s a simple, common-sense solution to help families through these moments of crisis.”

“During natural disasters, mothers should be able to rely on consistent coverage when seeking FEMA relief for nursing equipment,” said Tillis. “Our commonsense, bipartisan legislation will make that nursing equipment eligible under the Individual Assistance program to help new mothers take care of their babies in a time of need.” 

“A natural disaster can be a scary and vulnerable time for any family, but for a breastfeeding mom it can mean a loss of critical breastfeeding equipment needed to feed a child,” Underwood said. “This bipartisan solution will ensure that the federal government will support and empower breastfeeding moms during times of emergency, just as families are supported with access to formula. I was proud to introduce the DEMAND Act in the House and I am delighted to work with Duckworth  in the Senate so that we bring this necessary support to our communities.”

“When a Major Disaster Declaration is issued under the Stafford Act, FEMA delivers vital assistance and supplies to disaster-impacted communities. Unfortunately, FEMA’s process does not consistently cover essential equipment for nursing mothers,” said Katko. “To address this, I am proud to join Congresswoman Underwood in introducing the DEMAND Act. With this bill, we will ensure nursing mothers have reliable access to necessary support, such as breast pumps and lactation specialists, amid a disaster.”

The DEMAND Act would direct FEMA, in consultation with the Federal Interagency Breastfeeding Workgroup, to explicitly include breast pumps, other necessary nursing equipment and lactation support providers as eligible for financial assistance under its Individual Assistance program.

Currently, FEMA’s guidance for disaster survivors specifically highlights that infant formula is eligible for assistance but neglects to provide public facing information on accessing support for breastfeeding equipment. Last month, Duckworth and Underwood highlighted the importance of the DEMAND Act at VNA Health Care in Aurora, Ill.

The DEMAND Act is endorsed by U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, MomsRising and Medela.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent spate of natural disasters revealed dangerous crevasses in the emergency care systems serving families with breastfeeding babies. Infants are a highly vulnerable population, yet caregivers are too often left without access to support and supplies to ensure their infant’s basic nutrition needs are met in emergencies,” said Nikia Sankofa, Executive Director, U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. “Human milk is a critical component of food security. Ensuring that lactation support services and supplies are eligible expenses for emergency assistance from FEMA is an essential step in protecting the health and survivability of our babies. The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee expresses our sincere gratitude to Senators Duckworth and Tillis, and House counterparts Representatives Underwood and Katko, for championing the DEMAND Act and working to make lactation support a part of the basic standard of care for America’s 3.7M infants during an emergency.”

“America’s moms applaud the introduction of the DEMAND Act in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives today and commend U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Lauren Underwood for championing this vitally important legislation,” said Tina Sherman, Senior Campaign Director for Maternal Justice at MomsRising. “Natural disasters such as floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes are more and more common in our country, and we need to do all we can to ensure that new moms and their babies have the support they need when these disasters occur. The need for this legislation is urgent.”