20 Actions in 20 Days: Employer Support

20 Actions in 20 Days

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has called on the entire nation to take 20 concrete action steps from the January 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding to support the removal of barriers to breastfeeding. The United States Breastfeeding Committee is hosting a “20 Actions in 20 Days” campaign to highlight these action steps and implementation strategies.

Action 14: Ensure that employers establish and maintain comprehensive, high-quality lactation support programs for their employees.

Many mothers return to work before their infants are six months old, presenting a barrier to breastfeeding duration if their workplace does not have a supportive lactation policy. According to the Surgeon General, only a quarter of U.S. employers provide breastfeeding employees with a place to express breast milk at the workplace.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 2010 to require employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place for nursing mothers to express milk while at work, if they have over 50 employees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau has a comprehensive resource kit for employers, “A Business Case for Breastfeeding.” The resource kit spells out the benefits for employers to support breastfeeding moms: retention of experienced employees; reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children’s illnesses; and lower health care and insurance costs.

The Florida Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, included an intervention for improved nutrition. As part of this intervention, CPPW worked to increase the number of school districts and state agencies that provide worksite breastfeeding support for employees.

Since 2010, a total of 39 school districts across the state implemented lactation policies for their employees as part of the initiative, including three Northeast Florida districts (Baker, Clay and Nassau counties). The Nassau County School District became the 27th in the state to pass a lactation policy, but took it one step farther by receiving a grant to buy supplies. The county now has three refurbished pumps and three room dividers for privacy.

Private businesses across the state also support breastfeeding mothers. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition has a recognition program, the Florida Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Recognition, that awards a Bronze, Silver or Gold status to businesses based on the level of support they provide in the workplace to their breastfeeding employees.

Nearly 50 businesses have received one of the three designations. Northeast Florida recipients of this award are:

  • Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL -2011 GOLD
  • Baptist Medical Center South, Jacksonville, FL -2011 GOLD
  • Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Jacksonville, FL-2011 GOLD
  • Baptist Hospital Medical Center Nassau, Fernandina Beach -2011 GOLD
  • Flagler Hospital, St. Augustine, FL-2011 GOLD
  • Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Inc., Jacksonville, FL – 2012 GOLD
  • Shands Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL 2011 GOLD
  • Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Jacksonville, FL-2011 GOLD
  • CITI Family Center, Jacksonville, FL -2010 SILVER

The Healthy Start Coalition will be moving towards becoming a Breastfeeding Friendly Employer in the coming months. A lactation room is planned as the Cesery office goes through renovations this fall. The Coalition also plans to incorporate the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes into contracts with Healthy Start providers.