Breastfeeding in the workplace: making it work for women

July 11, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a one-year, $150,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) to increase breastfeeding support for nursing mothers in low-income populations who are returning to the workforce.

Earnestine Willis, M.D., M.P.H., the Kellner Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children at MCW, and an investigator at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, is the primary investigator on the grant.

Breast milk is widely acknowledged to be the most complete form of nutrients for infants, and the benefits are well documented. However, in Wisconsin’s low-income families, in particular families of color, breastfeeding rates are significantly below the statewide average, as well as the Healthy Wisconsin goal of 60% of six-month old infants, and 34% of 12-month old babies, still breastfeeding, a goal established by the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute. The Institute is an education and training resource supported by MCW and the University of Wisconsin School of Public Health.

The Breastfeeding-Employer’s Supported Time Project (BEST) is designed to improve the health and nutrition of infants by increasing the length of time they are breastfed by working mothers. The African American Breastfeeding Network and MCW will partner with academic partners, coalition members, community and health organizations and businesses to achieve that goal.

“The Affordable Care Act created the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision, and this grant will help us increase awareness of that provision, while helping businesses learn to engage and participate appropriately—to support working mothers doing their best to keep their babies healthy,” said Dr. Willis.

Ultimately, the project is designed to increase lactation support for nursing mothers who are returning to work, and to change social norms, expectations and assumptions regarding breastfeeding in Milwaukee County.

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