Supporting breastfeeding is worth it for breastfeeding families, as well as for employers, the community, and the environment. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, 2011, with the theme Support Breastfeeding: It’s Worth It!
During World Breastfeeding Week, some county health departments across the state will host festivities to raise awareness about breastfeeding and promote this year’s theme, which focuses on the importance of supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies.
Breastfeeding is so important for mothers and babies that major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians recommend that babies receive nothing but breastmilk during the first six months of life, and continue receiving breastmilk for at least the first year and beyond.
While 77.6 percent of Oklahoma mothers breastfeed at the start, only 25.4 percent of babies are still breastfeeding at six months according to the most recent 2009 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and The Oklahoma Toddler Survey (TOTS) data. Many moms say their efforts to breastfeed are enhanced by several factors, such as having support at home or at work, as well as receiving breastfeeding instruction or education from healthcare providers. Given that breastfeeding provides significant health benefits for both mother and baby, it is important that family members, clinicians, friends, and employers know how they can help make breastfeeding easier.
Workplace support for breastfeeding mothers is provided in the recently passed healthcare reform bill requiring employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees. According to this legislation, employers must provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after birth. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, to be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Ensuring that breastfeeding mothers have time and space to express their milk is a major step in providing support to women in the workplace.This legislation recognizes that the ability to express milk at work is a necessity for breastfeeding mothers who must balance their own need to work with caring for their babies. More information regarding the rules, regulations, and standards of implementation can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers.
Oklahoma has a program in place to recognize worksites that have met criteria to become breastfeeding friendly. These worksites allow flexible break times and a private location for nursing mothers to express milk, have access to a nearby water source for washing hands and breast pump equipment, and have a written breastfeeding policy. For more information about becoming a Recognized Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite, visit the OSDH breastfeeding website http://bis.health.ok.gov.
For breastfeeding support and information, call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK.