Monday, November 14, 2011

Middletown Schools Get Grants To Support Breastfeeding Mothers

Forwarded by Monica Belyea, a release from The Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition.
The Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition (CBC) has awarded mini-grant funding to eleven businesses and organizations to establish supportive working environments for employed breastfeeding mothers. Awardees were granted funding of up to $1000. Though all Connecticut businesses were eligible to apply for funding, nine of the eleven awards were given to Middletown employers largely due to the outreach efforts of the Opportunity Knocks for Middletown’s Young Children Collaborative (OK).

Amy Waterman, teacher and breastfeeding mother at Macdonough Elementary School says ” A new chair may not seem like much, and it’s not really. But it shows that my boss thinks this is important and knows how important it is to me to keep breastfeeding my baby. Knowing that everyone around me supports my decision helps me keep going. I want to do what is best for my baby and breastfeeding is best for her.”

Returning to the workplace is a significant barrier to continuing breastfeeding. Mothers report lack of time and a private place for expressing milk among other reasons for stopping breastfeeding sooner than they intended. Creating breastfeeding-friendly workplace environments is a win-win. Studies show that breastfeeding employees return from maternity leave sooner, miss fewer days of work and express greater satisfaction in their work when they have a supportive work environment. Staff turnover is also greatly reduced. Breastfed children in child care are sick less often which means parents do not have to take time off to care for them. Creating a space for mothers to express milk requires little more than a 4x5 room; many employers convert closets to lactation rooms.

Despite the benefits to both employers and families, it is estimated that only 25% of businesses nationwide provide any type of lactation support in the workplace. More information can be found about "the Business Case for Breastfeeding" HERE.

Early breastfeeding discontinuation, defined in the U.S. as before the child reaches one year of age, has been associated with increased health risks for the mother including breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. Health risks for the child who is not breastfed include types 1 and 2 diabetes, colds, flu, ear infections and obesity later in life. All of these conditions contribute to a substantial outlay of healthcare dollars in the US. One study reports a potential $13 billion/year in healthcare savings nationally if 90% of infants were fed according to the recommendation of only mother’s milk for the first 6 months of life.

Michele Griswold, Chair of the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition says, "Breastfeeding is a public health issue, and to remove barriers that mothers experience in the workplace requires a collaborative approach from any given community. That's why this mini-grant program was so successful. Bringing together separate, but related sectors of society to offer simple environmental changes in the workplace has the potential to improve the health of mothers and children across Connecticut."

Daria Keyes, Program Planner at Opportunity Knocks agrees “Our Infant Feeding work group contacted several Middletown employers, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and working mothers to get the word out about the benefits to families and to employers when a mother continues breastfeeding after she returns to work. We are very excited to have so many grantees from Middletown and we hope this will encourage others to ask their women employees what they can do to support them in breastfeeding after they return to work.”

The CBC is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve Connecticut’s health by working collaboratively to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Opportunity Knocks for Middletown’s Young Children is a community collaborative of more than 60 parents, early care and education providers, health providers and other agencies serving young children, working to create an environment that supports the healthy development of young children and families.

Mini-grant funding was provided to the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau as one of ten states selected to implement the "Business Case for Breastfeeding." The Connecticut businesses selected to receive mini-grant funding are: The Middletown Public Schools Central Office, Middletown High School, Keigwin Middle School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Bielefield School, Macdonough Elementary School, Snow Elementary School, Wesleyan University and Middlesex Hospital.

More information and resources for businesses and working mothers can be found on the CBC website.

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