Willmar employer recognized for its support of breastfeeding mothers
More employers across Minnesota are recognizing the business benefits of supporting breastfeeding mothers who are returning to work.
In Willmar, for instance, one employer’s efforts to support moms earned them recognition.
Bethesda Health and Housing, a nonprofit care facility, was honored in fall 2015 for its support of breastfeeding mothers and their babies with the Kandiyohi County Breastfeeding Friendly Business Award from the Kandiyohi County Breastfeeding Coalition.
Bethesda received technical assistance and funding Kandiyohi-Renville County SHIP. The employer used a SHIP grant to purchase equipment and signage for the room. SHIP also helped the organization develop its new worksite breastfeeding policy.
“SHIP did a worksite wellness collaborative and Bethesda was one of the participants,” said Hannah Abraham, the SHIP Community Health Organizer for Kandiyohi and Renville counties. “They highlighted a dedicated lactation room as their biggest need.”
Second room planned with Bethesda expansion project
A quiet, lower level vacant office on the Bethesda campus was selected for the new breastfeeding room. The room was painted a “restful” light brown color, and a leather chair, ottoman and small refrigerator were also added.
Before the room opened, breastfeeding mothers had to find their own quiet and private space to express their breast milk.
The need for dedicated spaces for breastfeeding at work is growing. A national study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health reported that fewer than half of breastfeeding mothers who return to work have access to appropriate spaces (that meet state and federal law) to express their breast milk during work hours.
The lactation room, which opened in May 2015, has been so popular that the care facility is planning a second lactation room in a $21 million expansion project.
“This is a great opportunity for Bethesda to grow with its young employees,” said Brooke Gabrielson, a public health nurse for Kandiyohi County who also participated in the breastfeeding coalition.
“These efforts are important,” Abraham said. “When one company has success starting a lactation room, it encourages other employers. SHIP can connect to those companies through efforts like this one. One important part of SHIP is informing companies of state and federal laws and letting them know that there is funding and assistance available to help them comply.”