World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), taking place August 1-7, 2015, is a week-long observance that promotes the advantages of breastfeeding and its important health benefits for mother and baby. The Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) support WBW by encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. This year’s theme, Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!, aims to empower, encourage, and support all women to adequately combine work with breastfeeding.
“Evidence is clear that breastfeeding is the most beneficial way to feed an infant,” says Dr. Ulyee Choe, Director of DOH-Polk. “It is important for employers to be supportive of this nutritional benefit for mothers and their babies by considering a breastfeeding-friendly workspace for mothers to express their milk during the work day.”
The following are some of the ways a breastfeeding-friendly workplace benefits families and employers:
• Research shows that women who receive support to express milk at work are more productive and loyal to the company. They are also more likely to return from maternity leave earlier.
• Mothers who breastfeed recover from pregnancy faster, which can help in the workplace with productivity and length of maternity leave.
• One day absences due to illness occur twice as often among parents whose infants are not breastfed.
• Babies who are not breastfed visit the physician more often and spend more days in the hospital than breastfed infants, resulting in additional parental work absences.
The U.S. Surgeon General has identified breastfeeding as a public health priority. Federal laws support a mother’s right to provide human milk for her infant, even at the workplace. While many employers haven’t applied this law to their operations, DOH-Polk supports employees who are exclusively breastfeeding by providing a breastfeeding-friendly space for mothers to express their milk during the work day. More than 34 DOH-Polk employees have taken advantage of this benefit in the workplace.
Currently 82.5% of WIC mothers in Polk County have tried breastfeeding. This is above the statewide average of 78.3%. Polk County’s WIC program provides many breastfeeding resources to their clients including peer counseling services. Peer counselors have successfully breastfed, trained in breastfeeding support, and come from similar sociocultural backgrounds as the mothers they help. Peer counselors help women address their barriers to breastfeeding and assist them in preventing and managing breastfeeding problems.
For more information about WIC services in Polk County call 863-519-7900 or visit www.FloridaWIC.org.
For more information on breastfeeding: www.DOH.state.fl.us/family/wic/pages/breastfeeding_info/breastfeeding.htm