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Tulsa Health Department Event Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week

(Tulsa, OK) The Tulsa Health Department is promoting World Breastfeeding Week with a local celebration honoring mothers in the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program who choose to breastfeed. The event will be held on Friday, August 5th at 11:00 a.m. at Southwood Baptist Church, located at 10110 East 41st Street in Tulsa.  Approximately 100 local women take part in the event each year.

The theme for this year’s celebration is Support Breastfeeding: It’s Worth It. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed. Supporting breastfeeding is worth it for mothers and their infants, as well as for employers, the community, and the environment. Every day a mom breastfeeds is one more day of better health for both mom and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive only human milk (no formula, food or water) for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding and the addition of complimentary foods for up to one year or beyond.

The Tulsa Health Department has resources to help inform mothers, breastfeeding advocates, health professionals, and the community on how they can actively support mothers to continue to breastfeed for at least the baby’s first year and beyond.

“Workplaces that provide a supportive environment can help ease the stress and help mothers feel good about their decision to combine working and breastfeeding,” said Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart. “An environment where breastfeeding is supported will encourage women to meet their breastfeeding goals. Mothers know the benefits of breastmilk, and by providing every ounce of breastmilk possible, they help keep their babies healthier.” 

Many women who would like to breastfeed make the decision either not to breastfeed or to wean early, due to their need to return to work. According to recent data, 77.6 percent of Oklahoma mothers breastfeed initially, but only 25.4 percent continue to breastfeed for six months or longer.  In Oklahoma, one-third of women who choose not to breastfeed cite returning to work or school as the reason. Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work can be a challenge for many working mothers, and having a supportive workplace can impact a mother’s decision on whether or not to continue to breastfeed throughout her baby’s first year.

With the newly-passed healthcare reform bill, employers are required to accommodate breastfeeding employees. This legislation recognizes that the ability to express milk at work is a necessity for breastfeeding mothers who must balance their own need to work with caring for their babies. According to Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

• Employers must provide women in the workforce a reasonable break time and space to express their milk for their babies.
• This must be provided for one year after the child’s birth.
• The place employers provide must not be a bathroom. It must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public.
• Employers are not required to pay their employees for the time they spend expressing their milk.
• Employers with fewer than 50 workers are exempt from these requirements if they would pose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the business.
Oklahoma already has a program in place to recognize worksites that have met criteria to become breastfeeding friendly. These worksites allow flexible break times and a private location for nursing mothers to express milk, have access to a nearby water source for washing hands and breast pump equipment, and have a written breastfeeding policy.

For more information about breastfeeding resources and the Tulsa event, please contact Tulsa Health Department WIC Manager Cheryl Schendt at 918-594-4820.

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