The Work/Life Resource Center is focusing on enhancing awareness and support for lactation in response to the needs of breastfeeding mothers returning to work and school, as well as new guidelines from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Lactation Support Task Force, facilitated by Work/Life Program Director Jennie McAlpine, includes representatives from the Central, North and Health System campuses in efforts to expand and improve current lactation spaces, manager awareness, and develop university guidelines in this area.
The ACA requires that employers provide “a reasonable break time” as well as “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk” for up to one year after a birth.
“Beyond compliance with the ACA, supporting lactating mothers also has a positive impact for the entire university,” McAlpine says. “It aligns with the strategic goals of MHealthy and contributes to reduced sick time and lower health care costs.”
Lactation support survey
The Lactation Support Task Force is seeking input, via an online survey, from women to target efforts at areas that are most challenging for new mothers. The survey will be open until Dec. 15.
Although the university currently has 83 identified lactation spaces across all campuses, many women still struggle to find time and appropriate space for lactation. This can cause stress, anxiety and ultimately an early end to breastfeeding efforts when women return to work.
“Because breastfeeding has so many health benefits for the mother and baby, we put a great deal of effort, and are very successful, in meeting mothers needs as they go home,” says Dr. Timothy Johnson, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. “Because the research shows that breastfeeding for at least a year is best, we need to make sure that we do everything we can to also support mothers as they return to work.”
For managers, supporting new mothers enhances recruitment and retention of talented faculty, staff and students.
“I believe strongly that women need appropriate support to continue their studies and work while taking care of their own and their baby’s health by breast feeding as long as possible,” says Donna Reed, chief administrative officer of the Rackham Graduate School, adding the school recently renovated its dedicated lactation room.
For mothers, having an appropriate space nearby and the support of their manager encourages greater engagement and allows for more productivity than having to seek out space that may take 10 minutes just to get to.
Says Natalie Bartolacci, program officer for student development at Rackham: “As a nursing mother, my transition back to work has been so much easier because I have access to a private space for lactation and support from my workplace. This support has allowed me to continue my personal goals for breastfeeding my daughter and my professional goals at work.
“Not all women have appropriate lactation spaces near their work, and I’m proud of the efforts of our Lactation Support Task Force to improve access to spaces and to support nursing mothers on our campus.”