A new federal law requiring employers to make accommodations for breast-feeding mothers will represent a big shift for some Central Kentucky companies because few have comprehensive plans.
Before the law, some breast-feeding women found themselves with no alternative at work but to pump their milk in bathroom stalls.
Support from an employer can make a difference in the life of a new mom. Lauren Goodpaster pumped milk for her son, Sam, now 2, while working at the University of Kentucky, which last year introduced a comprehensive breast-feeding program.
"It's not easy being a working mom when you are trying to breast-feed," said Goodpaster, who is pumping now for her 8-month-old, Max. "Just having the support, having people say that's a great thing you are doing, that was kind of a boost to keep me going on days when it is such a pain."
The U.S. Department of Labor is still finalizing specific accommodation requirements and penalties for those who don't adhere to the new regulations, which are part of the health care reform bill, said Doraine Bailey, a breast-feeding support services coordinator at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
Accommodations could range from providing a clean room with a locked door for an office worker to allowing an hourly worker at a fast-food restaurant — where space might be scarce — time to use a breast pump in her car.
The federal law and a recently announced pro-breast-feeding campaign by the U.S. surgeon general reinforce the health benefits of breast milk for infants. Children who are breast-fed are sick less often, which means new mothers lose fewer days at work, Bailey said. According to the National Center for Women's Health, nursing mothers are half as likely to miss work with a sick child compared to women feeding their babies formula.
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