Black Maternal Health

Part: 3

Lactation Breaks, Always Commendable, Are Now Law

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working Mother magazine's "Best Companies for Hourly Workers" all support employees who want to pump breast milk on the job, something health reform will start requiring of companies with more than 50 employees.



Working Mother's Carol Evans





(WOMENSENEWS)--Jenny Aguilar and her baby met their goal.

 

"When I had my son Luke in January 2009, my aim was to feed him nothing but breast milk for a year," says Aguilar, 27, a child-care program administrator in Folsom, Calif. "I knew this would be healthiest for both of us, but I knew many companies discourage breast pumping on the job. Luckily, my boss was not only cooperative, but let me use her office to express my milk whenever needed."

Aguilar's employer, Children's Creative Learning Centers, ranks No. 1 on Working Mother magazine's first "Best Companies for Hourly Workers," a list released in April. It won this honor in part because it encourages employees to breastfeed, which lowers a woman's risk of diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer while protecting her infant from infections, obesity and diabetes.

Since recent health-reform legislation requires companies to permit lactation breaks for U.S. workers, other firms may soon follow suit and establish the same practices that Working Mother has singled out for special praise.

Sixty-one percent of hourly workers such as Aguilar are female, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. And as Working Mother noted when it published its first "Best Companies for Hourly Workers" last month, these wage-earners often have poor benefits, unpredictable shifts and difficulty maintaining work-life balance. Working Mother's list of winners took benefits, training, advancement programs, child care, flexibility programs and paid time off into account.

New health-reform legislation requires companies with more than 50 employees to give hourly-wage workers unpaid lactation breaks on the job.

Passed by Congress in March and signed into law by President Obama in April, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," the formal name for health-reform legislation, requires companies to provide "reasonable break times" for pumping breast milk, a private place other than a bathroom in which to do this, and a sink and clean water with which women can wash their hands and breast pumps afterward. The date of implementation depends on the Department of Labor, which must first issue guidelines to clarify certain aspects of the law.

'Work Can Be a Major Hurdle'

"Returning to work can be a major hurdle for new mothers struggling to balance working and breastfeeding without the simple support measures that this law ensures," says Joan Young Meek, M.D., chair of the Washington-based United States Breastfeeding Committee.

Only 33 percent of mothers who work outside the home continue to breastfeed their children at six months, versus 42 percent of stay-at-home mothers, found a 2007 poll by HealthyWomen, a health-information service based in Red Bank, N.J.

The Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of having 50 percent of women still breastfeeding infants at six months.

"Many women find it impossible to express breast milk on the job," says Loretta McCallister, a spokeswoman for La Leche League International, a breastfeeding advocacy group based in Schaumburg, Ill. "If you're in a crowded bathroom, stuck in a cramped stall and in unsanitary conditions, you won't be relaxed enough for your body to release milk from the upper breast ducts to the lower ducts so your milk can be pumped."

When a nursing woman can't breastfeed or pump milk regularly, her body stops producing milk for her baby.

"Hourly workers are especially in danger of this happening," says Carol Evans, founder and president of Working Mother Media. "They usually don't have fixed schedules, and if they aren't allowed lactation breaks, they either won't be able to breastfeed or they won't be able to go back to work when their children are small."

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BLACK MATERNAL HEALTH SERIES

Series Overview

Black Maternal Health: A Legacy and a Future

Part: 19

U.S. Health Bills Show C-Sections Cut Two Ways

Part: 18

California Moms Live in Breastfeeding Haven

Part: 17

Lactation Breaks, Always Commendable, Are Now Law

Part: 16

Dr. Lu Puts 'M' Back in Maternal, Child Care

Part: 15

NYC Targets Black Women for Breastfeeding

Part: 14

Michelle Obama Urged to Speak Out for Breastfeeding

Part: 13

Tonya Lewis Lee Aims to Save Nation's Babies

Part: 12

Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms' Crying Need

Part: 11

Lawmakers Join Push to Close Maternal Health Gaps

Part: 10

Industry, Feds Entice Black Mothers to Bottle Feed

Part: 9

Midwives Fight AMA to Provide Black Maternal Care

Part: 7

Breastfeeding Not for You? Sisters, Listen Up

Part: 6

U.S. Black Maternal Hazards Tied to Social Stress

Part: 5

Black Fathers Opening Up About All That Love

Part: 4

Pregnant? Your Job Is To Take Care of Yourself

Part: 3

Maternity Center Showcases Full-Service Approach

Part: 2

Kindness RX Offered to Pregnant Black Women

Part: 1

Studies Plumb Depths of Black Maternal Health Woes