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July 02, 2002
Nursing Moms Getting More Help From Employers
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e than half of American women go back to their jobs by the time their children are 3 months old, which, not coincidentally, is about the time their unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act runs out.

Many of these women are still are nursing their babies, and Chicago Tribune columnist Carol Kleiman writes that savvy employers, who want the new mothers back on the job as soon as possible, will try to accommodate them by providing a private, safe, hygienic, and comfortable environment for breastfeeding mothers.

Kleiman observes that some employers are getting around to addressing this need because of legal requirements. She notes that nine states have enacted laws requiring employers to allow women to express milk during breaks and to provide a room in which breastfeeding mothers can express milk in a safe and sanitary way. Seven more states are considering similar legislation.

"Based on the clear benefits of breastfeeding, experts predict that these types of bills will cascade through all of the states," says Carol Ann Friedman, a registered nurse and program director of Mothers at Work, a division of LifeCare Inc., a human-services organization based in Westport, Conn.

Kleiman says Friedman's program offers 24/7 access to certified lactation consultants, educational materials and to the purchase of breastfeeding pumps and to breastfeeding classes.

Whether the designated room is called a lactation center or mothers' room, "it's essential for all employers to design a well thought-out facility," Friedman tells Kleiman.

Friedman has created a list of necessities, including: an internal lock to ensure privacy, a sink to wash hands and pump attachments, tables for the pumps to rest on, adequate electrical outlets for the pumps, and a rack to hang up clothes while pumping.

Friedman also has created a list of some extras that make a difference: ample storage space and/or a refrigerator for bottles, pump attachments and other supplies. A bulletin board for posting communications and baby photos. Soft lighting and temperature control. Comfortable nursing stools.

Also good to have: a sign-in book or white board for scheduling purposes, a clock, and a mirror.

To view Carol Kleiman's column in the Chicago Tribune, click here.

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