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November 7, 2003
Volume 41, No. 4

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got milk? University helps new moms balance breastfeeding and work
Skorton announces strategy for reducing budget by nearly $10 million
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The University of Iowa

The University of Iowa

got milk?
University helps new moms balance breastfeeding and work


Deborah Hubbard sits at a training table
Deborah Hubbard, lactation specialist at UIHC, leads a class that helps prepare new mothers who want to continue breastfeeding while returning to work. Photo by Tim Schoon.
 

After spending two months caring for and bonding with her newborn daughter, Nikole Mac was apprehensive—like many new mothers are—about returning to full-time employment.

Mac, education specialist in Staff Development, was anxious at the thought of spending time away from little Camille, and she was concerned about whether her work schedule would allow her to continue breastfeeding.

Not only did Mac discover that the University Services Building has a private lactation room with an electric pump, she found that being able to express her milk during work breaks made her feel better about returning to work.

"Being able to pump here has been wonderful. It's so convenient—it's a luxury that I don't even have to leave the building," Mac says. "It's really made a difference. I feel better about working full-time, and itCut out illustration of mother and child makes it easier to be away from her."

The Family Services Office, part of Human Resources' Organizational Effectiveness and WorkLife Services, collaborates with various campus departments to offer support to faculty and staff mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. There are 18 lactation rooms across campus, many of which are equipped with electric pumps, and new parents are encouraged to take informational classes at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

In order to pump and bottle milk for her baby to consume at a later time, Mac signs up for two 15-minutes slots a day at the USB lactation room. The private room—no one can enter without a key—is located off of the third-floor women's restroom. It has a chair, a pump, a sink, a counter, and a mirror. Mac, who often leads Staff Development courses in the Iowa Memorial Union, also uses a lactation room in the IMU when she is teaching there.

Tips for breastfeeding mothers returning to work

Get in the know. Deborah Hubbard, lactation specialist at UIHC, teaches several classes on breastfeeding, including Breastfeeding & Returning to Work. The fee is $10. Hubbard also leads a weekly support group for breastfeeding families. For more information, call (38)4-8741.

Work it out. Talk to your supervisor before you take maternity leave and let him or her know that you plan to continue breastfeeding after you return to work.

Plan ahead. Find a lactation room that will be convenient for you to use, and visit the site before you give birth. Also, figure out what pump accessories you will need to bring. (A list of lactation rooms on campus is available online.)

Prep yourself. Leave the baby with another caregiver at least once, if only for a few hours, before you return to work. Doing so may ease the initial anxiety of being away from your child and help you concentrate on your work responsibilities.

Pace yourself. Return to your job midweek. This may help smooth the transition for both you and your baby.

Tips for supervisors on creating a supportive environment

Show sensitivity to the needs of breastfeeding mothers.

Be flexible with scheduled breaks.

Be accommodating. If there isn't a lactation room nearby, provide a private, comfortable area where mothers can express their milk.

Inform new parents of the Family Services Office.

For more information regarding services to mothers who breastfeed, call the Family Services Office at (33)5-1371 or e-mail jane-holland@uiowa.edu or margaret-helble@uiowa.edu.

"The support I've received at work means the world to me," Mac says. "Breastfeeding is healthy for moms and babies, but if it weren't for the support I've received here, I feel it would be hard to continue it."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of life. Not only is breast milk easier for infants to digest, it contains antibodies that help protect them from bacteria and viruses-reducing illness in both babies and mothers. Breastfeeding also may lower the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

According to figures collected by the U.S. government, 64 percent of mothers across the nation breastfeed in the early postpartum period. However, breastfeeding rates drop dramatically—to about 25 percent—when women go back to work.

To counteract this drop and to increase the numbers in general, the U.S. Office on Women's Health is launching a $40 million campaign this fall to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding. Ads will stress the importance of exclusively breastfeeding for six months. National objectives are to increase breastfeeding rates to 75 percent at birth, 50 percent at six months, and 25 percent at one year by the year 2010. (In 1998, those figures were at 64, 29, and 16, respectively.)

Deborah Hubbard is working hard to raise awareness at the local level. She has been employed at UIHC since 1976, teaching childbirth education classes and working in the postpartum unit, and has been the hospital's lactation specialist since 1999. She educates parents and hospital staff about the benefits of breastfeeding, sees patients (at no charge) who have questions or concerns, and speaks at national conferences.

"We could save billions of dollars a year if more babies were breastfed. Healthier babies benefit all of us," says Hubbard, noting that fewer antibiotics are needed to treat breastfed babies and that breastfeeding moms take fewer sick days. "We need to get more employers to step up to the plate."

Hubbard commends the University for its support of breastfeeding mothers. Not only are lactation rooms planned into the design of all new University buildings, some UI insurance policies will cover 80 percent of the cost of an electric pump (up to $250).

"I think we have a lot to be proud of at the University," says Jane Holland, coordinator of the Family Services Office. "I have not heard of another institution with the number of rooms that we have.

"To women who want to continue breastfeeding, the University is saying, 'Breastfeeding is important—there is medical evidence that shows mom and baby are healthier. We support you.'"

by Sara Epstein Moninger

 

 

Published by University Relations Publications. Copyright the University of Iowa 2003. All rights reserved.
   

 

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