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FOR RELEASE: February 7 , 2008
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

New Breastfeeding Initiative Announced by Oklahoma State Department of Health -- Decals and Wallet Cards Available

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Initiative, which seeks to recognize worksites that support a woman’s right to breastfeed.

The minimum requirements for worksites to be recognized by the initiative include:

        Flexible break times for expression of milk

        A comfortable location allowing privacy for pumping

        Access to a nearby clean water source, and a sink for washing hands and materials

        A written policy supporting breastfeeding with a description of how staff are informed of the policy 

If an employer adds three of any of the following optional criteria to the minimum criteria, that employer will be recognized as a Gold Star Employer:

        Access to a refrigerator for safe storage of milk

        Prenatal breastfeeding education

        Counseling by a lactation consultant as needed

        Referrals to public/private community resources for special situations

        Education for all employees on the benefits of breastfeeding and company services available to support breastfeeding women

        Hospital-grade breast pump available for employee use

Oklahoma legislation supports a mother’s right to express milk during unpaid breaks and meal times during the workday. The Oklahoma Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Initiative is committed to promoting and protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed her child for as long as she chooses, whether or not she returns to work.
Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth and continued breastfeeding for at least one year to achieve optimal health of a mother and her child. Oklahoma state law asks employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers in the workplace by adopting policies and practices that support breastfeeding. Employers that accommodate breastfeeding in the workplace also benefit from reduced staff turnover, reduced medical expense claims because of lower rates of infant illness, reduced absenteeism, and increased employee productivity and satisfaction.

“Currently, Oklahoma’s breastfeeding initiation rate is only 66.7 percent and needs improvement to reach the U.S. Healthy People 2010 goal of 75 percent,” said Secretary for Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Increasing breastfeeding rates in Oklahoma is a step in the right direction toward having a healthier workforce both now and in the future,” Crutcher said.

Free wallet cards that explain the breastfeeding laws passed in Oklahoma are now available to the public. In 2004, legislation was passed acknowledging that mothers have the right to breastfeed in public places and also exempting breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. In 2006, another law was passed encouraging employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers in the workplace by adopting policies and practices that support breastfeeding.

Public establishments that support breastfeeding are encouraged to order and display new decals that state “Nursing Moms and Babies Welcome”. The decals are part of the initiative’s efforts to raise public awareness about a mother’s right to nurse her baby in public places.

The State Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma State Department of Health are sponsoring the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Initiative in collaboration with the Oklahoma Turning Point Initiative, Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates, and the Oklahoma Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition.

For additional information on breastfeeding and legislation cards, contact the OSDH WIC Service, Rosanne Smith at 405/271- 4676 or 1-888-655-2942. For information about the Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Initiative or to request decals, contact OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service, Nancy Bacon, 405/271-4480.

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