The Madison County Health Department is pleased to announce that the Oneida Walmart is the first business in Madison County to successfully complete the national initiative, “The Business Case for Breastfeeding.” Walmart collaborated with the Madison County Health Department to complete each step of the process, which supports nursing moms at work.
The very first step was to complete a lactation program assessment. The assessment showed that Walmart, which employs over 300 people in its Oneida store, already had a Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Policy in place. This laid a firm foundation for identifying other ways management could support the pregnant and nursing mothers they employed.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, women with children are the fastest-growing segment of the work force. Balancing work and family is an important priority for them. Today, over 75 percent of women in the United States begin breastfeeding.
Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work can prove challenging if a private, comfortable space is not easily accessible and flexible breaks are not in the schedule. It is not uncommon to see breastfeeding rates significantly decline when mothers return to work. Lactation support programs help improve breastfeeding rates by supporting the mother in pumping her milk at work.
With the help of the Madison County Health Department, Walmart developed an action plan that would enhance the supports already in place. While the store had a private space with a lock on the door for nursing employees to pump, the space was also filled with files that were on their way out of the store and other items that made their way into the storage space.
The Personnel Manager, Margaret, and the Training Coordinator, Becky, went to work to turn this storage room into a comfortable and welcoming space for a mother to settle in and express her milk. They cleaned it out, arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed, painted over the brown walls with a soft green, shined the floor, and furnished it with a table, lamp, glider, and a small refrigerator. They covered one wall of shelving with fabric, put up a bulletin board for baby pictures, breastfeeding materials, and information on community resources, and decorated with a few cuddly stuffed animals. This room was now completely ready, and they named it “The Mothers’ Den.”
Meanwhile, co-manager Jessica, was working on the important piece of training all of the management staff on the Business Case for Breastfeeding project, such as flexible scheduling of breaks. The trainings brought to light the important role management plays in setting a positive tone for support by educating employees about the policies of the company and ways they will be supported, and communicating those policies to other workers during new staff orientation or if questions arise. It was a valuable opportunity for supervisors to ask questions and fully understand how the lactation program works and how they can support breastfeeding mothers returning to work.
For instance, every employee who is expecting a baby will receive an informational packet before she goes out on maternity leave. The packet contains Walmart’s Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Policy, New York State Department of Labor Guidelines Regarding the Right of Nursing Mothers to Express Breast Milk in the Work Place, a local Community Breastfeeding Resource Guide, and a Toolkit for Moms, developed by the New York State Department of Health and the New York State WIC Program. This way, the mom will know her workplace will support her pumping when she returns to work.
Lactation support programs are a growing trend in businesses today as a means of improving family services to employees. Corporate lactation programs have been proven to help mothers continue to provide milk for their infants. Supporting breastfeeding employees is also good for business. Employers who provide a supportive environment to help women continue breastfeeding after childbirth enjoy proven benefits such as lower healthcare costs, lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism rates, and higher employee productivity and morale.“It’s a
“It’s a win-win for every associate and for the company,” says Jim Breed, Store Manager.
“Oneida Walmart employees can take pride in knowing their employer has developed a comprehensive lactation program to support nursing mothers when they return to work,” says Cheryl Geiler, Director of Community Health Services for Madison County Health Department.
If your Madison County business would like more information on how to develop an employee lactation support program, visit www.breastfeedingpartners.org for the “Making it Work Toolkit” or call the Madison County Health Department at 315.366.2361.