Monday, August 1, 2011 - 7:36am
World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7 Highlights Workplace Accommodations
If there were a new technology that could successfully provide infants and children protection from a host of diseases, with a reduced risk of obesity throughout their life span, while providing their mothers with a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, it would be a big story. The good news is that all of these benefits are available, technology free, via one of the most fundamental biological functions of human beings - breastfeeding.
Wisconsin has made great strides over the last 30 years in increasing the percentage of women who breastfeed their babies in the first few months to about 75 percent. However, many women stop breastfeeding earlier than they planned.
Many women find it difficult to continue to provide breast milk while working.This is particularly true for lower income wage earners who often have less flexible work rules and schedules.
Fortunately, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act amended in 2010 states that employers need to provide a nursing mother with reasonable break time and space to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after her child's birth
Throughout the country many employers, including Home Depot, CIGNA, Pizza Hut and others have already begun accommodating nursing mothers and have found such significant benefits as increased employee recruitment, retention, productivity and engagement along with reduced employee absenteeism and health care/insurance costs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nationally $13 billion of direct health care costs would be saved each year if 90% of women were able to breastfeed according to medical recommendations (at least 6 months).
Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) has been working with and learning from several area businesses as they try to accommodate employees who are nursing mothers. Two excellent examples are the Hy-Vee grocery store on East Washington Avenue in Madison and Promega Corporation, in Fitchburg.
Hy-Vee has made substantial efforts to establish breastfeeding friendly places for both customers and employees. According to Deanna Foster, Registered Dietician with Hy-Vee, "we recognize the many benefits to breastfeeding and try to support our employees by informing them that there is space and time available for pumping. We also have rooms available for customers who may want privacy for breastfeeding while shopping."
According to Jan Zimmerman, a Nurse Practitioner with Promega, "Promega has long realized supporting our breastfeeding employees benefits us as a company. Mothers who are committed to breastfeeding are happier and more productive employees when they are able to continue providing their babies breast milk after returning to work."
Supporting the needs of breastfeeding employees in our workplaces will result in healthier families, improved businesses and save us all money.
For more information on breastfeeding, see the PHMDC web page at http://www.publichealthmdc.com/family/breastfeeding/
For specific information on workplace accommodations for breastfeeding see the following:
The Business case for Breastfeeding
Public Health Madison & Dane County
- Jeff Golden, (608) 243-0302