Breastfeeding support in the workplace benefits employers, moms and babies, agency says.

The Polk County WIC program is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August and World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 - 7.  

    The numbers tell the story. More than 80 percent of new mothers in Minnesota WIC choose to breastfeed, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, but only about 35 percent of them breastfeed their infants at six months. Challenges at work can make breast feeding difficult. In fact, the chief reason for the steep drop is a lack of workplace support for breastfeeding mothers.

    On the upside, more employers are realizing the benefits of providing accommodations for nursing mothers, such as increased employee loyalty, reduced turnover, and increased productivity. Businesses can also cut their health-care costs, as studies have shown that breastfeeding not only boosts an infant’s immune system—meaning fewer trips to the doctor. It also lowers the mother’s risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancer

    In addition, Federal and Minnesota laws require employers to provide support for nursing employees to pump breastmilk at work. Generally, lactation support initiatives cost little, and studies show they result in a $3 return for every $1 invested.

    “Ultimately, however, the true benefit comes when the breastfeeding employee shows pictures of her baby and sees the face of a happy, healthy child smiling back,” said Tammy Conn, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Polk County Public Health.

    Businesses that support their breastfeeding employees are eligible for recognition by the Minnesota Department of Health as a Minnesota Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace.   Currently Polk County Public Health, RiverView, and the City of Crookston have all received that designation, with other Polk County workplaces waiting for approval.  Learn how your company can become a designated MDH Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace. The web page offers a wide variety of resources that businesses, employees, and community organizations can use to encourage others to receive breastfeeding friendly designation.

    The Polk WIC program can be reached at: 218-281-1673. Other community resources for breastfeeding information and support include: Polk County Public Health website and facebook page, the Polk County Breastfeeding Coalition, and Mama’s Milk Connection-breastfeeding support group.

    New to Polk County WIC, is the Peer Breastfeeding Support Program.  Breastfeeding peers are moms who have successfully breastfed at least one infant and are passionate about helping others succeed at breastfeeding.  They have additional education and training that enables them to help support a mom to continue breastfeeding to meet her goals.  Peers are assigned to pregnant and postpartum breastfeeding WIC moms.  Visits are one-on-one contacts via phone calls, texting and face to face.

    Another way Polk County Public Health will celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.  Mama’s Milk Connection, a breastfeeding support group, which typically meets the third Thursday, will instead gather at the Community Family Service Center Playground, on Thursday, August 3 at 5:30 p.m. for a potluck meal, games and fellowship.  This is fun for the whole family.  Breastfeeding advocates in the community are welcome to attend!   If you have questions about breastfeeding or other healthy choices, call Polk County Public Health, 218-281-3385.

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is the standard for infant feeding. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost an infant’s immune system, providing protection from childhood illnesses. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity.

They are also at greater risk for rare but serious conditions like severe lower respiratory infections, leukemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). AAP recommends that infants be fed only breastmilk through the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding through the first year and beyond to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.