Few businesses join program on breast-feeding

Few businesses join program on breast-feeding

CHAMPAIGN — A local public health program aimed at helping breast-feeding moms feel more comfortable at work and other public places is getting a less-than-enthusiastic response.

So far, only a dozen employers have been willing to become certified as breast-feeding-friendly environments for their employees and/or customers in a program launched this past summer by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, says Karima Isberg, a breast-feeding peer counselor with the district.

The health district started the free program hoping to make the local community more "breast-feeding friendly at all levels," she said.

But, she adds, "it's been slow going."

Many employers are already required to minimally accommodate nursing mothers.

State law (Public Act 92-0068) requires workplaces with five or more non-family employees to provide daily unpaid breaks to women who need to pump breast milk. It also requires those employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a private place other than a bathroom stall to pump.

Isberg said the district wants to give certificates recognizing those employers willing to do more than that and has several levels of participation available beyond compliance with the state law.

The lowest level of certification requires only about a minute's worth of training, she said, and that involves explaining to employees that the workplace is a breast-feeding-friendly environment.

Higher levels can include providing more amenities, such as a private room for guests to breast-feed and not tolerating discrimination against breast-feeding mothers.

Two options for the "double-gold" certification are providing refrigeration for breast milk or allowing a nursing mom to bring her baby up to three months old to nurse at work, Isberg said.

"It's best for lactation if the baby can nurse on cue," she said.

The health district thought it might all be a bit overwhelming, so it also offers some optional free training for any employer that wants it, Isberg said.

Employers that support breast-feeding employees reap benefits, she said.

Breast-fed babies tend to be sick less — which can mean fewer sick days are taken by the nursing mom — and more moms who plan to breast-feed after their maternity leaves end return to work, she said.

Plus, Isberg says, "employees tend to feel more satisfied and loyal when they have that kind of support."

The American Academy of Pediatrics lists among its benefits of breast-feeding for babies: better protection from respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, allergies, asthma and eczema.

The doctor's organization recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of a baby's life, then continuing breast-feeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months and continuing breast-feeding as long as it's mutually desired by mother and baby.

Isberg, a breast-feeding mother herself, said she initially approached businesses hoping they would like to be honored for the practices they already have in place.

But she has been refused by Market Place Mall and some others, and doesn't understand the hesitation.

"My initial feeling is people are kind of scared about it," she said.

Some may fear it will identify them too much with breast-feeding, she said. Some might mistakenly think there's a charge for the program, she said, and for others, it might just not be high on their priority list.

The 12 that have become certified include Natural Gourmet, Lincoln Square, Confidentially Yours, Krannert Center for Performing Arts, Chesterbrook Academy, First United Methodist Child Care Center, Frogs and Fairies, The Caring Place, Developmental Services Center, Crisis Nursery, McCabe Chiropractic and Randa's Daycare, Isberg said.

Gay Amorasak, owner of Natural Gourmet, a store in Champaign, said none of her employees are breast-feeding moms, but she remembers what it was like to a breast-feeding mom. Her customers are welcome to breast-feed anywhere in the store, she said, but the store also has cafe tables to use and a storage room available if they'd like some quiet and privacy.

"I nursed children myself, and it was always a tricky ordeal, sometimes, to find places you felt comfortable, and you were wondering if it was appropriate," she said.

Dennis Robertson, general manager of Market Place Mall, said the mall doesn't use its common area to promote any cause. Plus, he said, it already offers two private rooms for breast-feeding moms to feed their babies or pump milk. Both are located near restrooms, he said.

Encouraging a more breast-feeding-friendly community is really a public health issue, Isberg says.

"Women complain that there's no place to go breast-feed where they feel comfortable, so they give it up," she said.

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Mark Taylor wrote on December 07, 2012 at 11:12 am

As an older Republican man I believe I can speak with the most authority on the subject: breastfeeding is unnatural, I tell you!!!1! We need to shut that whole thing down.

Joe American wrote on December 07, 2012 at 1:12 pm

In Internet slang, a troll (play /ˈtrl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is someone who posts inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[3


If there was any prior to today, all doubts have been removed.



Mark Taylor wrote on December 07, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for giving us the skinny on the hep lingo. It's a good thing for you that following someone around online with insults unrelated to the article isn't a form of trolling.

Oh, wait...

rsp wrote on December 13, 2012 at 2:12 am

Isn't your post off topic?

Mark Taylor wrote on December 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

But he's a REAL AMERICAN who's also a REAL MAN, so it's all right. Plus, he's packing a piece in his waistband, so don't piss him off.

HMack wrote on December 07, 2012 at 2:12 pm

There are so many facets  and reasons to argue why companies should be providing more services to women in the workplace.  When I was a working breast feeding mom in Atlanta, my employer really put effort toward accomodating women who needed to breastfeed.  However, my  employer was not the norm for being breast feeding friendly.  I know other women told me me they had to pump behind curtains next to their male coworkers at other jobs, and it was very embarassing.  My employer was very good. They had a separate office (with no windows) for privacy with table for pumping and fridge.  I could go as often as I needed which was incredibly important for me with some of the long hours I put in.  If my employer had not done this, it would have been impossible for me to continue breastfeeding my baby, which as this article says keeps the baby from getting sick, and keeps mom from being sick. Once I stopped breastfeeding, my child came down with every ailment you can imagine and I was sick every two to three weeks for 6 months until my body couldn't take it anymore.  It's no joke, and this is a serious women and child's health issue, amoung many that I can talk about...that more employers need to take heed to things like this.  It's a shame that with the value women offer to the work place, that more employers are not trying to make more women friendly polices (i.e. childcare help, in office child care, private breastfeeding rooms, etc).  For those employers out there not making a serious effort for things like this, you need to pay attention and get on board. In my observation, and this data attests to this as well, that in an economic downturn, women are the ones keeping their jobs.  http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/demographics/.  Amoung other things, this tells you that women are probably keeping their jobs because they make less than men do.  Aren't women getting shunted enough as it is? 

mmemartinez wrote on December 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I've pumped in a bathroom. I don't really mind depending on the bathroom. If it is a private one - fine. One with multiple stalls...no thank you. Not to mention it can be hard to find an outlet to plug in, or if you find one it might not be in the right location for you to even use it. And you definitely need to have a place to sit, not the toilet. So why it should be a huge deal for an employer to provide a clean, private space is a bit hard for me to understand. Aggie you must really hate women and/or children. Maybe you weren't breastfed and you want to make sure no one else gets what you didn't have?

Really I don't understand the big deal - people take smoke breaks all the time, or get a soda, or whatever it is they do - so what is the difference if a mother takes it to pump? How is that requiring others to pick up the slack? And if it is unpaid...exactly why does it matter at all then? If it is an UNPAID break then nothing should be getting done that is work related anyway. If an employer chooses to pay for any of the reasons listed above, good on them. 

And if you are the type who is just disgusted by it and that is where your anger is coming from, well, I hope you see me breastfeeding in public someday and have the nerve to say something. Such hatred towards a normal, natural and NECESSARY HUMAN behavior.

rsp wrote on December 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I really think he's just jealous. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I wonder what his mother would think about his comments?