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.

Page 2 of 2

Winners Provide Private Rooms

Five of the six winners on Working Mother's "Best Companies for Hourly Workers" list offer breastfeeding education to employees and private rooms with locks where they can express breast milk.

Luke AguilarHalf of the winners offer their workers breast pumps, lactation hotlines, breastfeeding education materials, and on-the-job lactation consultants.

"Since our organization is 95-percent female, since the majority of our employees are ages 25 to 35, and since our mission is to help working families, it makes ideological sense for us to do all this," says Melinda Rogers, vice president of human resources for the list-topping Creative Children's Learning Centers, based in Portland, Ore. "It also benefits us as a company because our employees have high attendance, high satisfaction and low turnover rates."

Marriott International of Bethesda, Md., comes second on the list. It launched a special program last summer to train the managers of its hourly employees about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Workers at the company's 3,400 hotels can also call a 24-hour health hotline and receive additional information and assistance.

Other winners also have policies that are friendly to working mothers. McDonald's USA, based in Oak Brook, Ill., offers free physicals to employees' new babies. Sodexo, of Gaithersburg, Md., provides employees with a free child-care referral hotline. The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, in Madison, allows 26 partially-paid weeks of maternity leave. And the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, in Albuquerque, gives free vaccinations to employees' infants.

Advocating for "best practices" like these is part of Working Mother's mission. For 25 years, the magazine has published a general "Working Mother 100 Best Companies" list. Its editors have produced white papers on lactation rights and lobbied Congress to pass laws that support breastfeeding. The magazine in 2008 produced a scale-model replica of an ideal nursing room.

New Bill Promotes Change

Twenty-four states already have rules that protect breastfeeding in the workplace, reports the Washington-based National Conference of State Legislatures. Without weakening these provisions, the new health-reform bill will strengthen the laws in other states.

The Department of Labor must define a "reasonable break time" before the new law can be enforced. Several women's rights groups recommend that women be given a 30-minute breast pumping break for every four hours of work.

That's what Jenny Aguilar did at the childcare center where she works. That's what's required by law in her employer's home state of Oregon. And that's what the United States Breastfeeding Committee defines as a "good match between natural breastfeeding cycles and the rhythms of the workday."

Breastfeeding advocates say generous breaks would not only benefit female workers and their children, but help companies, too. "The Business Case for Breastfeeding," a 2008 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, found companies that provide lactation support have lower-than-average health-care costs and higher-than-average productivity, with a $3 return for every $1 invested in lactation support.

Some business-industry groups are nonetheless balking.

"Every additional mandated rule further burdens employers who are struggling to keep jobs afloat," Neil Trautwein, vice president of the Washington-based National Retail Federation, reportedly said after the health-care bill passed.

Breast-feeding advocates say working women--especially hourly wage-earners--have long known how to battle such prejudice.

"When it comes to breast pumping on the job, women have always had to gather health and legal information and show it to their employers," says McCallister of La Leche League. "Women have always had to stand up for this right, but thanks to the new health-reform legislation, they will have more legal enforcement behind them."

Molly M. Ginty (http://mollymaureenginty.wordpress.com) is a freelance writer based in New York City.

For more information:

United States Breastfeeding Committee
"Health Care Reform Boosts Support for Employed Breastfeeding Mothers":
http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Workplace/WorkplaceSupport/WorkplaceSupportinHealthCareReform/tabid/175/Default.aspx

Working Mother magazine's "Best Companies for Hourly Workers":
http://www.workingmother.com/BestCompanies/hourly-workers/2010/04/best-companies-for-hourly-workers-2010

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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