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For Release: July 22, 2010
Contact:  Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Breastmilk – Every Ounce Counts

Every day a mother breastfeeds is one more day of better health for both mother and baby. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, 2010, with the theme Breastmilk - Every Ounce Counts. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of every ounce of breastmilk - even when moms go back to work.  

Breastfeeding is so important for mothers and babies that major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians recommend that babies receive nothing but breastmilk during the first six months of life, and continue receiving breastmilk for at least the first year and beyond.  Many women who would like to breastfeed make the decision either not to breastfeed or to wean early, due to their need to return to work. According to recent data, 79 percent of Oklahoma mothers breastfeed initially, but only 30.5 percent continue to breastfeed for six months or longer.  In Oklahoma, one-third of women who choose not to breastfeed cite returning to work or school as the reason.  A woman’s decision to breastfeed often affects when and if she will return to work.

“Workplaces that provide a supportive environment can help ease the stress and help mothers feel good about their decision to combine working and breastfeeding,” says Rosanne Smith, RD/LD, IBCLC, Breastfeeding Coordinator for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Service.  “An environment where breastfeeding is supported will encourage women to meet their breastfeeding goals. Mothers know the benefits of breastmilk, and by providing every ounce of breastmilk possible, they help keep their babies healthier.”

Workplace support for breastfeeding mothers is provided in the newly-passed healthcare reform bill, where employers are now required to accommodate breastfeeding employees. This legislation recognizes that the ability to express milk at work is a necessity for breastfeeding mothers who must balance their own need to work with caring for their babies. According to Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

  • Employers must provide women in the workforce a reasonable break time and space to express their milk for their babies.
  • This must be provided for one year after the child’s birth.
  • The place employers provide must not be a bathroom. It must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by co-workers and the public.
  • Employers are not required to pay their employees for the time they spend expressing their milk. 
  • Employers with fewer than 50 workers are exempt from these requirements if they would pose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the business.

The rules, regulations, and standards of implementation are still being developed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Ensuring that breastfeeding mothers have time and space to express their milk is a major step in providing support to women in the workplace.

Oklahoma already has a program in place to recognize worksites that have met criteria to become breastfeeding friendly. These worksites allow flexible break times and a private location for nursing mothers to express milk, have access to a nearby water source for washing hands and breast pump equipment, and have a written breastfeeding policy. Since the program’s initiation in 2008, the OSDH and The State Chamber of Oklahoma have recognized 29 Oklahoma worksites for being Recognized Breastfeeding Friendly Worksites.

During World Breastfeeding Week, county health departments statewide will host festivities to promote the Breastmilk - Every Ounce Counts theme. For more information about breastfeeding, becoming a Recognized Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite, or to find a lactation consultant in your area, visit the OSDH breastfeeding Web site http://bis.health.ok.gov or call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK.  



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