In the Fall of 2011, Miriam Labbok, PhD, accepted an appointment as a Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Scholar. During this appointment, Dr. Labbok completed a project titled, “Protecting and Supporting Breastfeeding and the Reproductive Health Continuum on Campus: Creating and studying a breastfeeding and birthspacing friendly environment.” Thanks to Ali Starling (MPH; 2012) for her collaborative work on this project.
This project helps to achieve an inclusive educational and work environment, reducing gender barriers and other disparities at UNC, through interdisciplinary evaluative research to create a breastfeeding and reproductive health-friendly environment. The approach includes and builds upon an ongoing vision: UNC is an inclusive educational and work environment where gender is not a barrier to success, difference and diversity are celebrated. Support for breastfeeding and birthspacing contributes to CWC’s efforts to support gender equity, for interdisciplinary research to create and disseminate data that fosters institutional and community change and to serve as a model of a collaborative and flexible educational and work environment that promotes professional and personal growth.
CGBI completed a survey of University faculty, staff and students with the objective to better understand the knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to breastfeeding and reproductive health on campus to ensure that UNC-CH is a supportive environment for maternal and child health. There were over 500 respondents to the electronic survey. A review of the literature found this was the first mixed methods survey that concerned the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to breastfeeding at a University in the US.
- The majority of the UNC community has positive attitudes towards breastfeeding and maternal support, and state that it contributes to bettering UNC’s image; 203 out of 502 respondents (40.4%).
- 73.98% of the community knows that it is legal to breastfeed in public, 364 out of 493 respondents, however only 51.85% of undergraduate students know this.
- Of 186 graduate/postdoctoral students, and out of 220 faculty and staff, 68% and 69% respectively state that allowing a woman to breastfeed in the workplace will somewhat or significantly improve morale compared to 6% of both subsets that state it would decrease.
- Out of 503 respondents, 82% agree or strongly agree that breastfeeding in public on UNC’s campus is acceptable, including 91% of faculty, 83% of staff, and 87% of graduate or postdoctoral student respondents.
- Inform supervisors that on average women will need 2 times a day between 15-30 minutes to express their milk. 24% of UNC women on average breastfeed 3 times a day and 15% of respondents take more than 30 minutes to breastfeed.
- Educate managers and/or supervisors to ensure that they understand the policies that exist for breastfeeding women. For example, 25% of UNC women who are breastfeeding and/or breastfed said their mangers were not supportive, and 22% said that their supervisor did not make sure their job was covered if they needed extra time for breastfeeding or expressing their milk.
- Communicate to mangers that for many women their quest to find a suitable lactation room can be daunting and time-consuming. More sufficient spaces for women throughout campus need to be dedicated to lactation.