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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 1, 2010
INVESTING IN LACTATION SUPPORT
Washington, DC: The District of Columbia Breastfeeding Coalition (DCBFC) and the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition (MBC) announce an initiative to increase the number of businesses who provide lactation support to the region’s breastfeeding employees. The Business Case for Breastfeeding is part of a nation- wide emphasis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau aimed at encouraging women to breastfeed their infants for a longer duration after they return to work. Washington, DC and Maryland have been selected by HHS to implement the project, and will host a training event for community leaders on July 1-2, 2010.
According to Dr. Sahira Long, President of the DCBFC, providing lactation support is a “win-win-win” for everyone: businesses, mothers, and babies. “Mothers are breastfeeding in record numbers today,” Dr. Long says. “Here in the District of Columbia and Maryland more than 69% and 76% respectively, of mothers choose to give their babies the healthiest start in life through breastfeeding. Unfortunately, many mothers discontinue breastfeeding earlier than they hope when they return to the workplace. When businesses accommodate their basic needs with simple family friendly benefits, they can enjoy significant cost savings.”
These benefits, according to Dr. Long include such things as: “lower health care costs since breastfed infants are healthier, lower absenteeism rates due to healthier babies, and lower turnover costs since employees are more likely to return to work when the company provides lactation support benefits.”
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the Health Care Reform Package includes a provision requiring workplace support of breastfeeding. This provision states that employers shall provide reasonable, unpaid break time and a private, non-bathroom place for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth. Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to the requirement if it would cause “undue hardship.”
Companies such as CIGNA and Mutual of Omaha are among the 26% of companies in the U.S. that already provide lactation support programs. Both companies found that a comprehensive lactation support program brought about a significant drop in health care and employee costs. Mutual of Omaha, for instance, found that their lactation program saved them over $2,000 per employee who participated in the program just in health care costs alone. CIGNA found that their program netted them more than $60,000/year in lower absenteeism rates.
Best of all, according to Dr. Dana Silver, President of the MBC, babies are able to take advantage of their mother’s milk longer, giving them an edge in overall health with lower risk of infections, disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. The needs of the employer are relatively simple.
“There are 4 easy steps that make the difference for working mothers,” Dr. Silver says. “Those 4 things include support from managers and coworkers, flexible time to express milk around 10-15 minutes 3 times a day, education for employees about how to combine breastfeeding and work, and a designated space to breastfeed or express milk in privacy. That space does not need to be elaborate. A simple space as small as 4’ x 5’ is often all an employee needs.”
As part of the national initiative, HHS has produced a comprehensive resource kit, The Business Case for Breastfeeding, with information, tools, and step-by-step instructions for implementing a lactation support program in a workplace. Those individuals receiving training through the DCBFC and MBC will be approaching businesses throughout DC and Maryland to provide the new resources and to encourage them to consider some of these simple support options.
Businesses can learn more about The Business Case for Breastfeeding program by visiting the DCBFC website at www.dcbfc.org or the MBC website at www.marylandbreastfeedingcoalition.org. The kit is available at the HHS website at: www.ask.hrsa.gov . HHS has also produced a WEBCAST about the project, available in their 2008 archives at www.mchcom.com.
The DC and Maryland Breastfeeding Coalitions invite health care professionals and community leaders interested in learning more about the project to attend the training. For more information and to register, contact Holly Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-256- 0396.