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Breastfeeding good for baby, business

Returning to work after having a baby can be a challenge in general, but what about breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year. And the state says a few area hospitals are making it easier for new moms to stay on schedule.

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The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is honoring Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Anne Arundel Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital for programs and policies that support the practice after the moms return to work.

Their "Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace" provides short breaks and a private space for the mothers to pump and store breast milk among other programs. (Those two provisions are now required by the new health care reform law, though employers don't have to pay for the time and small companies are exempt if it would cause an undue hardship.)

Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers said there are benefits to companies to aid new moms: Parental absenteeism is lower and so are healthcare costs because breastfed infants are sick less often. He said studies estimate a $400 savings on health care in baby's first year. It's not bad for morale and productivity, too, he said.

Colmers points to a U.S. Department of Labor stat: nearly three-quarters of all mothers are in the work force, including 60 percent of mothers of very young children.

The state health department can offer guidance. Find more information on setting up support programs at work or an application for the workplace award at www.marylandbreastfeeding.org.

So, what's the situation in your office?

Baltimore Sun file photo/Chiaki Kawajiri

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