HHS launches Web resource, ‘Supporting Nursing Moms at Work’

June 25, 2014

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health has announced the launch of a new national online searchable resource which features The University of North Carolina.

The resource, Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions, includes photos and stories of 200 businesses in 29 U.S. states, representing 22 industry sectors.

The new resources are designed to assist businesses with implementing Section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 4207, which amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, requires that employers of hourly workers provide a private, non-restroom space and reasonable time for employees who breastfeed to express milk while they are at work.

According to Nancy C. Lee, MD, deputy assistant secretary for health – women’s health and director of the Office on Women’s Health, the project is designed to give employers a wide range of options and solutions.

“We know that many employers want to support their employees, not just because it’s required, but because they know it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Today, more than 75 percent of all new mothers begin breastfeeding, and many want to continue when they return to work. However, businesses have told us they need solutions, especially in more challenging worksite settings, such as restaurants, retail stores and manufacturing plants. We built this resource to provide practical solutions from their peers – businesses across the country that have found the solutions to make this work.”

The University of North Carolina and its Gillings School of Global Public Health have developed services to support nursing women.

Dr. Miriam Labbok

Dr. Miriam Labbok

“The first Mothers’ Room was opened in our Department of Maternal and Child Health in 2004 because we recognized the importance of human milk for human babies, and now similar rooms are available all over campus,” said Miriam Labbok, MD, Professor of the Practice of maternal and child health and director of the Gillings School’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute.

“This expansion is vital, since not every nursing mother has an office at which she they can close the door for privacy in pumping. Our hope is that someday we will have paid maternity leave similar to all other developed countries, and co-located child care, so that all women are supported to truly breastfeed, rather than being supported in pump use, alone.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nationally, more than three of every four women breastfeed their infants. Once they return to work, many women do not continue if they are not provided accommodations to express milk during the work period. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a professional association for 250,000 human resource directors, reports that 34 percent of employers currently provide designated lactation rooms for nursing women working in their companies. Others provide more flexible options, such as a manager’s office or a temporary private structure.

“No matter how challenging your environment, someone has already figured out a solution,” said Cathy Carothers, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant from Every Mother Inc., one of the project contractors and a national expert in the field of worksite support for breastfeeding.  “It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and the possibilities are endless.”

Carothers points to  support provided by the University of North Carolina as an example of creative solutions that can be considered.

Doris McGuire, senior associate at Altarum Institute, which served as an additional project contractor, noted that the new resource gives a snapshot of these creative options.

“We’ve seen everything from pop-up tents in agricultural fields, partitions and screens in the corner of warehouses, and even allowing women to bring their babies to work. This really isn’t hard, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.”

The new online resource launched at the SHRM Conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 23.

A full list of lactation rooms available at UNC is available online

For more information about the Mothers’ Room in the Gillings School’s Rosenau Hall, contact Linda Mitchell at lgmitche@email.unc.edu.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.

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