DPH Marks World Breastfeeding Week with Moms Who Balance Work and Motherhood

August 5, 2015

This week, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is observing World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding and show its support for breastfeeding-friendly work environments.

The observance, taking place Aug. 1 – 7, is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding (WABA), an organization that is calling for global concerted action to support women in combining their work lives and breastfeeding needs to ensure the health of their child.

This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding and Work,” marks a 22-year milestone in WABA’s Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative. Over the past two decades, this project has worked worldwide to strengthen maternity entitlements for women and encourage increased adoption of business practices that support women’s right to breastfeed.

DPH is a designated breastfeeding-friendly workplace and is proud to have enacted a policy that enables the agency to provide a lactation room for its employees, volunteers, interns and visitors. This policy not only sets an important benchmark for other work environments across the state, but also complies with important federal and state laws.

“By setting the gold standard for breastfeeding in the workplace, DPH can continue to recruit the best and brightest public health staff, many of whom are women of child bearing age,” said Susanne Koch, MS, ACSM-HFS, PES, DPH worksite wellness coordinator.

Averaging about 11 visits per day and six users at any given time, DPH’s lactation room is a calming and secluded space on the second floor for new moms to take a break from the stress of work. The room is equipped with a refrigerator for milk storage, comfortable reclining chair, sink to wash hands and various equipment that makes breastfeeding an easy and convenient process for new mothers.

Since its opening in August 2013, users of DPH’s lactation room reported having access to this on-site resource encouraged them to breastfeed longer than they originally planned.

DPH’s breastfeeding policy made working at the agency a win-win for Renee Johnson, project director of Perinatal Health for DPH’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Section.  Johnson joined DPH on July 1 and appreciates the agency’s focus on improving the health of infants across the state, including her own 3-month-old baby, Isabel.

“I was extremely impressed with the lactation room that DPH provides for working moms like me,” said Johnson. “I am passionate about improving birth outcomes for moms and babies, and it’s proven that breastfeeding has tremendous health benefits and positive outcomes for both mom and baby.”

Returning to work outside the home is hard for any new mother and Johnson was no exception. Finding an employer that supported her desire to breastfeed was an important factor in her job search.

“With a goal to breastfeed for at least a year, the thought of having to balance busy work schedules with maintaining milk supply can be daunting,” said Johnson. “Having a new employer that supports breastfeeding and provides moms with a space to maintain breastfeeding while away from their children makes a hard decision a little easier.”

DPH’s commitment to creating breastfeeding-friendly environments reaches far beyond the walls of its own workplace. The MCH Section’s Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative is training birthing hospital staff to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment in their facilities.

The initiative assists hospitals in taking steps towards earning Baby-Friendly status, a worldwide designation that recognizes facilities for implementing health care delivery practices that support breastfeeding and maternal health. To date, three Georgia hospitals have earned Baby-Friendly status while many others are in the accreditation process.

According to Seema Csukas, M.D., PhD, director of DPH’s MCH Section, hospitals are showing excitement to participate in this initiative and contribute to more positive birth outcomes.

“Our birthing hospitals have a passion to deliver an evidenced-based and patient-centered care initiative to improve health outcomes for babies and mothers,” Dr. Csukas said. “Many of Georgia’s birthing hospitals are excited to be a part of this journey. They are inspired to develop a professional environment of competence while elevating their reputation and standards at their facility.”

To learn more about the Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative, visit www.dph.georgia.gov/georgia-5-star. DPH employees who are interesting in learning more about its breastfeeding policy and lactation room can contact Susanne Koch at 404-657-2566 or susanne.koch@dph.ga.gov.

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