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FOR RELEASE: July 26, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

World Breastfeeding Week to Focus on Working Mothers

Women with infants and children are the fastest growing group of the U.S. labor force. Among employed women with children under age 3, approximately 70 percent work full time. One-third of mothers return to work within three months after having a baby, and two-thirds return to work within six months. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women will account for 55 percent of the increase in total labor force growth from years 2002 to 2012.

Increasingly, many employers are recognizing that when they provide accommodations for their breastfeeding employees who have returned to work from maternity leave, everyone - babies, mothers, families, and employers - benefits. Thus, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) WIC Service theme for celebrating World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7, 2005, is “Support the Working Breastfeeding Mother.”

Supporting breastfeeding has multiple benefits to employers including:

  • Improved employee productivity.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Improved employee retention.
  • Reduced health care costs.
  • A family-friendly image in the community.
  • Reduced number of sick days to care for ill children. Breastfed babies are healthier, have fewer infections, and require fewer days in the hospital than formula-fed babies. Some women may find it difficult to continue breastfeeding once they return to work.

Challenges for mothers include lack of break time and poor pumping and storing facilities for human milk. Employers can reduce many workplace challenges with a small investment of time, flexibility, and money. “As supervisors, it’s vitally important for us to provide opportunities for mothers to be successful with breastfeeding during the workday. This includes being supportive and making necessary accommodations for breastfeeding in the workplace,” said Edd D. Rhoades, MD, MPH, Deputy Commissioner for Family Health Services for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Employers can be supportive by providing a clean, private space that is not a bathroom in order for their employees to pump milk or to breastfeed. The room should have an electrical outlet and a comfortable chair with a table. Providing a sink for hand washing and a refrigerator for milk storage would be helpful, but not required for a “breastfeeding room.” Basic services cost as little as $100-$200, yet can make a big difference in the life of breastfeeding employees.

For more information about working and breastfeeding, contact the local WIC clinic in your area or visit the OSDH Web site at www.health.ok.gov.

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