Kindness in Real Life: Boosting the breastfeeding environment

Last year, Thames Valley Council for Community Action received a “Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children” grant that is being used to encourage New London County to become a breastfeeding-friendly environment.

A core focus has been educating local businesses about how to implement breastfeeding-friendly policies into their industries. Uncas and Ledge Light health districts as well as Catholic Charities, Fiddleheads Food Co-operative and all 14 branches of Community Health Centers have achieved the breastfeeding-friendly worksite designation from the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition since the start of the grant.

Currently there are both state and federal laws supporting breastfeeding/pumping in the workplace. This starts with the ability of new mothers to schedule flexible work breaks to provide time for milk expression at the worksite, as well as access to a private space with a chair and electrical outlet.

Many businesses are unaware of Connecticut laws and may not understand how easy and fiscally beneficial the practice is.

Nationally, 47 percent of the workforce is female and 57 percent of working mothers have children under 1 year of age. Breastfeeding-friendly employers see a dramatic increase in retention rate, loyalty and productivity in their working mothers.

Nationally, the average retention rate after a maternity leave is 59 percent, a number that jumps to 94 percent with the implementation of mother-friendly HR policies.

Breastfed babies have fewer ear and gastrointestinal tract infections. Breastfeeding moms have lower rates of Type II diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer. All of these benefits add up to reduce absenteeism and lower health care costs for businesses.

Improved health, coupled with increased productivity, feeds business and community growth. We are asking all New London County businesses to implement a breastfeeding friendly policy.

Our grant may be coming to an end, but there is a tremendous amount of support and information available to those needing it. Please visit our website to see our Breastfeeding Friendly Toolkit, complete with many current resources.

This column was submitted by Cindy Fortner, community health liaison for TVCCA. She can be reached at cfortner@tvcca.org.

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in the Times in which we feature readers telling us about charitable work in which they or others are involved. To submit, email l.howard@theday.com.

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