ST. LOUIS – Barnes-Jewish Hospital was recently recognized as a Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite through its proactive efforts to support employees who choose to breastfeed their children. Barnes-Jewish joins a growing number of Missouri businesses as a Breastfeeding Friendly employer, which provides private lactation rooms, time for breast pumping and other benefits to maintain breastfeeding after a mother returns to work.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, employers that provide lactation support services report higher employee retention, lower absenteeism, higher morale, greater productivity and reduced health care costs among new mothers. Many studies have also shown improved short-and long-term health of the breastfeeding mother and her child.
“Lactation support programs are a growing trend in businesses today as a means of improving family services to employees,” says Geralyn Eichelberger, MSN, RN, director of women and infants services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We recognize that for women who plan to breastfeed, the support from an employer strongly influences her ability to start and continue breastfeeding.”
Over 70 percent of Missouri mothers choose breastfeeding as the optimal form of infant feeding. However, many are unable to breastfeed for the entire first year of their baby’s life, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified returning to work as a major reason why many women stop breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers,” says Camaryn Chrisman Robbins, MD, Washington University obstetrician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality and optimally supports neurodevelopment. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
The Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite program is a collaboration between the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition. The program aims to bring an increased awareness about the importance of worksite lactation support. The program recognizes employers with policies supportive of their breastfeeding employees. Such policies provide a flexible work schedule for milk expression breaks; offer a private space, other than a bathroom, where the employee can pump or breastfeed; and ensure easy access to a safe water source and place to store milk.
“We want our employees who are new mothers to know that we support their decision to continue breastfeeding,” says Eichelberger. “We are extremely pleased to be designated as a Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite.”
For a list of Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly employers, click here. For more information on breastfeeding and lactation support, click here.
About Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Barnes-Jewish Hospital is a 1,315 bed teaching hospital affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. The hospital has a 1,763 member medical staff, with many recognized as "Best Doctors in America." Barnes-Jewish is a member of BJC HealthCare, which provides a full range of health care services through its 12 hospitals and more than 100 health care sites in Missouri and Illinois.
Kara Price Shannon