The Richmond County Health Department hosted a luncheon on Tuesday, called The Business Case for Breastfeeding.
“We are hoping to promote breast-feeding friendly workplaces, in order to increase the number of breast-feeding mothers in Richmond County,” said WIC Director Saquana Miller-Stevenson.
“That decision is greatly affected by the need to return to work or school, which causes mothers to be separated from their infants,” said Miller-Stevenson. “We are hoping to demonstrate to organizations and managers the importance of having a place for mothers to go and express their milk with a breast pump during the day.”
Representatives from organizations such as: WIC; Richmond County Health Dept.; Richmond Community College; Dr. Masoud Ahdieh’s office; Food Lion in Hamlet; Leath Memorial Library; N.C. Cooperative Extension; and DSS were in attendance to learn more about the need for mothers to breast-feed, and how to create accessible facilities.
Norma Escobar, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Perinatal Region 5 Business Coordinator for WIC was the guest speaker.
“In March of 2010 Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law,” said Escobar. “Since then, we have seen a growing interest in complying with this legislation from companies.”
According to Escobar, the legislation requires employers to provide lactating mothers with reasonable break time to express their milk, in a non-bathroom location, for up to one year after the birth of a baby. Mothers need to express milk two or three times per day, in order to continue milk production.
2005 Data from the Department of Labor shows that 60 percent of women work outside the home, and that mothers are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce.
“Allowing workers to express milk for their babies is actually beneficial to employers,” said Escobar. “Breast-fed children have significantly lower rates of infections and illnesses. One day absences from work, to care for sick children, occurs twice as often among mothers who do not breast feed. Therefore, there is a much lower rate of absenteeism among mothers who provide breast milk for their babies. Companies also incur lower health care costs as an added benefit to supporting breast-feeding in the workplace.”
Escobar also cited additional employer benefits such as lower turnover rates, earlier return from maternity leave, higher productivity and moral and higher employee loyalty to the company.
In addition to health benefits for babies, breast-feeding has a positive impact on a mother’s health as well. Mothers who have breast-fed recover faster from pregnancy and childbirth, have lower risk of osteoporosis and lower risk of breast cancer.
“The basic needs of breast-feeding employees are minimal,” said Escobar.
Allowing 15-20 minutes, two or three times during the work day is about the amount of time employees need to express milk. A non-bathroom space can be anything from a large closet to a partitioned area in a private office.
“Employers can get creative with the space,” Escobar said. “A small private area, with a comfortable chair and an electrical outlet is really all that is needed.”
“It is critical that breast-feeding employees who need to express milk receive support from employers and colleagues,” said Escobar. “It’s not always convenient, and if mothers are receiving negative feedback for taking the time to do this, they are less likely to continue.”
For additional information or support, call Saquana Miller-Stevenson at 910-997-8370 or Vasthi Garcia at 910-997-8309.
Staff writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com