Workplace Support for Breastfeeding Moms

by Lisha Smith
Peoria City/County Health Department

Being a new mother can be a tough job—and returning to work can be especially challenging. This challenge is even greater for moms who are breastfeeding. Some mothers have had to make a choice between their jobs and the choice of breastfeeding or formula. Both federal and Illinois laws support moms for breastfeeding their infants in public and in the workplace.

The Peoria City/County Health Department on Sheridan Road in Peoria is now an official Milk Depot for Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. Mother’s Milk Bank safely collects, screens, processes, pasteurizes and dispenses human breast milk to help babies—particularly those with medical conditions in hospitals—and mothers who cannot supply enough breast milk. The new Milk Depot is a convenient drop-off station that eliminates the need for packaging and shipping donated breast milk. Visit milkbankwgl.org or pcchd.org for more information.

Breastfeeding is healthier not only for infants, but also for moms. Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of respiratory and ear infections, obesity, childhood cancers, type 1 and 2 diabetes, diarrhea, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It’s even been linked with higher IQ!

Current laws allow for breastfeeding in public and at work. Supporting new moms in the workplace can include some easy adjustments for businesses:

  • Develop a comfortable, private and secure area for pumping breast milk or breastfeeding. Restrooms are not acceptable for this purpose.
  • Assure a sink is available in the same area of pumping to wash breast pump parts. This is a both a convenience and a time saver, as well as a sanitary issue.
  • Provide a refrigerator specifically for breast milk. This is helpful so mothers don’t stress about keeping their breast milk in a cooler all day.
  • Help breastfeeding moms get the recommended additional 300 to 500 calories a day. Try supplying your lactation room with nutritional snacks and bottles of water.
  • Support mothers with kind words. A friendly and supportive atmosphere will go a long way to boost new moms with confidence.

While the law establishes the framework, community understanding and support will go a long way in helping new moms who choose breastfeeding. For more information on breastfeeding laws, visit the Central Illinois Breastfeeding Task Force at illinoisbreastfeeding.org. iBi

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