Five local employers increase support for breastfeeding mothers
Five local employers have taken steps to make their worksites friendlier for breastfeeding mothers returning to work. Brooks Memorial Hospital, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County, Cummins Engine, TLC Health Network (at Lake Shore Hospital), and Venture Forthe each received a Breastfeeding Works Mini-grant organized by the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services and funded by Univera Healthcare. Awards ranged from $300 to $1,000.
Section 206-c of the New York State Labor Law requires employers to provide a space for mothers to express, pump and milk upon returning to work, and that space cannot be a bathroom. The law also requires employers to provide flexible time, either paid or unpaid, for a mother to take pumping breaks. Training was held in May 2016 to educate local employers about their legal obligation to support breastfeeding mothers, the benefits of supporting mothers, and access to local resources for moms and families.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that mothers are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force. Approximately 70 percent of employed mothers with children younger than three years work full time. One-third of these mothers return to work within three months after birth and two-thirds return within six months. Working outside the home is related to a shorter duration of breastfeeding, and intentions to work full time are significantly associated with lower rates of breastfeeding initiation and shorter duration.
The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services (CCDHHS) has been working to create community supports for breastfeeding in Chautauqua County since 2013. Thanks to funds from Univera Healthcare, this project allowed for resources to be distributed to local worksites to make environmental adjustments favoring breastfeeding mothers. Each of the worksites worked to improve or create lactation rooms.
“Returning to work after having a baby is one of the main barriers to mothers meeting their breastfeeding goals,” said Chautauqua County Director of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler. “The health and social benefits of breastfeeding are too important for us all to ignore. How an employer and fellow employees treat a breastfeeding mother is directly related to how successful a breastfeeding mother will be. I challenge all Chautauqua County employers to talk with young women about and support their goals to breastfeed.”
The CDC reports that individual employers can do a great deal to create an atmosphere that supports employees who breastfeed. Such an atmosphere will become easier to achieve as workplace support programs are promoted to diverse employers. Workplace support programs can be promoted to employers, including managers of human resources, employee health coordinators, insurers, and health providers serving many of a particular organization’s employees.
Each of the Chautauqua County worksites that were awarded a grant worked to create or update spaces for breastfeeding mothers.
Director of Outreach for Venture Forthe, Melanie Booth, said, “We at Venture Forthe have fully embraced helping new moms and young families succeed in the workforce.”
A nursing mothers’ room was created in the office located on East Second Street in Jamestown.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE) Executive Director Emily Reynolds understands firsthand the struggles of breastfeeding and pumping when returning to work full time.
“I commend the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services and Univera Healthcare for their support to new moms throughout the county,” said Reynolds. “This mini grant was a significant help to CCE in providing adequate and comfortable space to support breastfeeding. CCE is happy to support our staff and program participants by providing an environment that encourages breastfeeding and eases the transition for working mothers.”
“Because of the generosity of the Chautauqua County Breastfeeding Works program and Univera Healthcare, Brooks now provides two private areas equipped with refrigerators stocked with water and healthy snacks, along with televisions, comfortable seating, and cheerful decor,” said Sheila Walier, director of Marketing and Community Relations for Brooks Memorial Hospital. “Together with new hospital-wide policies and procedures, the new employee lactation room helps Brooks provide a breastfeeding-friendly workplace that supports and encourages employees who wish to continue breastfeeding their babies after returning to work.”
TLC Health Network established a lactation room at Lake Shore Hospital in Irving. The room has already seen a lot of use from employees.
One mother commented, “As we all know, returning to work after having a baby can be difficult, especially when attempting to continue breastfeeding as a full-time, working mother. Having this space available to nursing mothers has helped to ease that transition. I am very thankful to have this new lactation room available to us.”
Cummins Engine, Inc. has provided a space for breastfeeding mothers to pump for several years. They used the Breastfeeding Works Mini Grant to update the space and make it more comfortable for mothers.
If you are a nursing mother having trouble with your employer providing an appropriate space or time to pump, contact the New York State Department of Labor. All complaints are confidential and a filed complaint will not be shared with the employer. Call the DOL at 1-888-52-LABOR, send to LSAsk@labor.ny.gov, or visit the nearest Labor Standards office to personally file a complaint.
Need help with breastfeeding? Call the Chautauqua County Breastfeeding Help Line: 1-844-4BF-BABY (1-844-423-2229.
For more info, contact Bree Agett at the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services at 753-4771.