Workplaces Honored For Promoting A Breastfeeding-Friendly Environment

By Brandi Bottalico The Frederick News-Post, Md.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dana Silver, of the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition, says the Affordable Care Act mandates that women are provided reasonable break time in a place, other than a bathroom, to pump for breast milk. Silver says, "Many workplaces either aren't aware of this or how easy it is to support women in the workplace."

The Frederick News-Post, Md.

It was easy for Natalie Winzer to decide to keep breastfeeding when she returned to work from maternity leave.

iHire, where she works, has a room that mothers can use to pump breastmilk into bottles to bring home.

"It was like a no-brainer," she said.

iHire is one of three Frederick County businesses that recently won a Regional Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace award.

The other two businesses are the Frederick County Bank and Frederick County Department of Social Services.

Winzer said she reserves the room, which is also a meeting room and has a sofa, conference table, whiteboard and projector.

She said she uses the room about three times a day for about 20 minutes at a time. And, co-workers are flexible if she needs to use it at other times.

iHire's administrative manager, Vickie Krolak, has two children. She remembered that when she was breastfeeding her now 8-year-old she would have to pump at work, but said she was shy because the company was mostly men then. She said she just did it in her office.

Winzer leaves her bag with the pump and containers in the room so she doesn't need to bring it home.

"Everything I need is here," Winzer said. "There's nothing I'd ask for."

"And if she asked for it, we'd get it," Krolak added.

Dana Silver, of the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition, said the Affordable Care Act mandates that women are provided reasonable break time in a place, other than a bathroom, to pump.

"Many workplaces either aren't aware of this or how easy it is to support women in the workplace and that's part of the reason we started the program," she said.

The awards look at what kind of supports employers provide, what time they provide for women to pump milk and what resources and education they offer for women. Each workplace's space can vary from a room with cubicles to one that is used for multiple purposes, Silver said.

All they need is a door with a lock and a plug.

The earliest awardees were health care providers because they are focused on health and wellness, Silver said.

She said the coalition would like to get state legislation that mandates the same in case the federal law changes.

"Many employers don't even know much about the Affordable Care Act mandate. They just realize that it's the right thing to do for their employees," Silver said.

When employers offer flexible time and show their support, she said, the mothers will be more loyal to the companies.

Frederick County's Department of Social Services has a designated room that is private and has a clock and comfortable chair, said Executive Assistant Donna Heller.

"It's just a quiet place where they can go and pump for their babies," she said. "I would say about 90 percent of our staff are women, so we've had this in place for probably five or six years now. We felt that there was a need to have a room available for women who were returning back to work from maternity leave."

Frederick County Bank provides a wellness program for employees that includes a reasonable break time for nursing mothers, as well as a room, called the Wellness Room, that provides a location for mothers to pump, Human Resources Specialist Jenny Hogg wrote in an email.

"Returning to work after giving birth can be an intimidating experience and we strive to make sure that our new mothers know that we support them because breastfeeding isn't just a benefit for the baby, but for the mother as well -- physically, mentally and emotionally," she said.

The room is located in the Human Resources Department and is available for all employees to use, including those who are nursing mothers, she said. It is equipped with an oversized massage chair and space to allow a nursing mother to comfortably pump, although there are no nursing mothers currently there, she said.

The room is also used for things such as weekly meditation sessions or massage and acupuncture sessions.

Another thing the coalition has worked on is a "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" campaign to foster a supportive environment for mothers to breastfeed their babies in public. Businesses are encouraged to place a "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" logo in clear view for all to see upon entering the establishment and pledge to have a welcome and supportive environment.

Lactation consultant Julie Clark was the only Frederick County business to take the pledge.

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