Providers Asked to Support New Breastfeeding Initiative
The South Dakota Department of Health is asking healthcare professionals to support a new initiative designed to make public breastfeeding or pumping at work a “non-event”.
Brookings recently became the pilot community for the new Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Initiative, a statewide push to encourage businesses to demonstrate their commitment to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, whether they are employees or customers.
“It’s essentially a goodwill pledge from businesses that helps mom’s to know that they are doing businesses with a place that supports their decision to breastfeed,” says Megan Hlavacek, MS, RDN, LN, the health department’s Healthy Foods Coordinator who is also coordinating the breastfeeding initiative. MED spoke with Hlavacek by phone in May.
Brookings Health System, South Dakota State University and the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce were the primary partners represented by the Brookings Supports Breastfeeding team and the first to sign the pledge. The City of Brookings, Brookings County, 3M, Children’s Museum of South Dakota and Hy-Vee also have also taken the breastfeeding pledge. To date, 100 businesses have taken the pledge - 97 of them from Brookings.
Businesses that take the online pledge receive a Breastfeeding Friendly Business Kit including educational and staff training materials, policy language, fact sheets, and a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” window cling.
At 45.6%, South Dakota is slightly below the national average in the number of mothers who breastfeed their babies for at least six months. The new initiative has a goal of increasing that number to 60.6% by 2020 both by lifting up business that are already “breastfeeding friendly” and by providing support and training for businesses that don’t have a policy in place.
Hlavacek says doctors and other healthcare professionals can help by making sure their own workplaces have signed the pledge and by letting patients know where they stand.
“Docs have time with moms and have such an influence,” she says. “They have the ability to support the decision to breastfeed and that really resonates with moms. It lets a woman know that she is doing a good thing.”
Although Brookings is the pilot community, the pledge is available to any SD business at www.healthsd.gov/breastfeeding. The state is encouraging all hospitals and clinics to take the pledge to help increase awareness for breastfeeding.