Carroll Hospital has been recognized as a Gold Level Regional Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace by the D.C. and Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition, one of 24 businesses honored at an awards luncheon on Nov. 30.
“The goal of the workplace award is to make sure we are highlighting the businesses doing whatever types of accommodation they are doing to help their employees continue to breast feed,” said Nancy McAlduff, president of the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition. “That’s one of the toughest things for a mom, to maintain her breastfeeding relationship when she goes back to work. We really want to highlight the business that support the moms.”
To be recognized, Carroll Hospital first of all had to have a written policy around breastfeeding and pumping breast milk, according to Angela Baublitz, a lactation consultant at the hospital.
“We needed to have a written policy in place that supported breastfeeding and mandatory guidelines from HR,” she said. “Also they were looking for us educating and training managers, supervisors, about the importance of breastfeeding.”
Carroll Hospital provides employees a private room for expressing breast milk, with sinks for washing pumps and comfortable chairs, according to Baublitz. Some of that is actually required by federal law, she said.
“The law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a clean, private space, other than a bathroom for employees to express milk for their infants up to one year of age,” Baublitz said. “The employer is not required to pay for that time, but flexible break times of at least 15 to 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon as well as lunch breaks will be provided.”
For the Maryland Breastfeeding Coalition, Bronze awards recognizing employers meeting those basic requirements for employees, but McAlduff said silver and gold require more accommodations and support for nursing mothers.
“A silver award would be things like the ability to work part-time, the ability to telecommute, the ability to have a compressed work week. A gold level of time would be paid maternity leave and on-site child care,” she said. “And we also have this wonderful separate room for you with a lock and a refrigerator and a sink.”
Carroll Hospital also offerings breastfeeding support groups that meet at noon every Thursday, and are open to both hospital employees and the community.
The reason for the awards and highlighting businesses, McAlduff said, is that evidence shows breastfeeding provides many benefits for both mother and child, benefits that ultimately trickle up to employers, too.
“There is evidence that shows mothers and babies who are breastfed having lower rates of ear infections for the baby,” she said. “That means you have an employee who is actually showing up for work because she is not home taking care of a baby.”
Breastfeeding can also pay dividends for the health of the mother as well, according to McAlduff.
“There is evidence that breastfeeding reduces a mother’s chance of type 2 diabetes, of breast cancer,” she said. “There was a study published in Pediatrics in 2010 that said that If 90 percent of mothers and babies breastfed exclusively for the recommended six months, we would save $13 billion.”
Added Baublitz: “I think it’s a big deal and I would really like to see other employers try to get this award next year.”
Other area businesses and organizations support breastfeeding mothers to various levels, even if they have not be recognized.
“We do have an accommodation to express breast milk we provide any employee and give them a private room. It has resources; a refrigerator, pump, chairs. They can use it up to three years after the birth of the child,” said Brady Chapman, assistant director of human resources at Penguin Random House. “We have a whole accommodation for new parents, be it mother or father. We actually have a leave policy where we give them paid time off after the birth of a child.”
Carroll County Public Schools provide designated space for pumping breast milk to employees or students, or will do so upon request, according to spokeswoman Carey Gaddis. “It’s not an official board policy but we do have guidelines that state there should be a designated place in all our facilities. Or if someone asks for a designated accommodation, we will take care of that.”
Carroll Community College has rooms that can be locked available upon request for pumping breast milk, according to college spokeswoman Trish Carroll.
Still, the word could get out more than supporting nursing mothers in the workplace is both beneficial and the law, Baublitz said.
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“Some employers do not follow the law to begin with. We find that a lot with our patients who come through. A lot of employers will tell them, ‘you can pump in the bathroom,’ which is not appropriate,” she said. “It’s going to save them money when mom is missing less work, not having to use her sick leave. If they can make simple little changes so mom can go in and pump, overall I think everybody wins.”