Nurses are Masters at the Fine Art of Caring

Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: How These Nine Medical Centers Answered the Call


By Deborah Swanson
Spring 2018

An interesting juxtaposition has emerged in the last 50 or so years: most major health organizations agreed that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants, and at the same time, more moms invested in their careers than ever before (almost
70 percent of mothers were in the workforce in 2015, compared with just 47 percent in 1975). Integrating breastfeeding into a full-time workday is a major challenge for new mothers, and studies show that workplace barriers contribute to low rates of breastfeeding.

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To address this, in 2010, the United States enacted a federal law requiring employers to provide break time and a place for hourly wage-earning and salaried employees to express breast milk at work. But the medical industry in particular has taken their support of nursing moms to the next level, not only by following the law, but also by introducing lactation services and breast pump rental programs, and even developing programs that let employees bring their nursing babies to work. So, perhaps all the medical mom needs is a good pair of
maternity scrubs and a supportive employer!

Here are a few of the medical centers who went above and beyond to support their nursing employees in the past few years. Most of these hospitals are accredited by the
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (Baby-Friendly USA), a governing body that helps medical centers develop programs that encourage more employees to breastfeed.

Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) The ADHS in Phoenix is one of the most baby-friendly employers in the entire country, in the medical field or otherwise. Its nationally-recognized Infant at Work Program allows infants up to 6 months old to come into work with their mom, dad or caregiver. Not only does this encourage mom to nurse baby without the need to pump, but it also prioritizes early-stage bonding with dad. The program won the first-ever Public Health Workforce WINS Challenge from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) in 2017.

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center — The children’s hospital in Hartford, Conn. takes the same unconventional approach as the ADHS: it wants working moms to be able to directly nurse their babies without pumping. Their culture of support starts with on-site child care where mothers can routinely pop in for regular feedings. The center also provides in-house lactation consultants and shared breast pumps, and employees who are new parents receive a free cooler pack for portable milk storage.

Johns Hopkins Health System —
It should come as no surprise that one of the healthcare industry’s most influential centers for research and care has one of the best support systems for working moms. Johns Hopkins developed the WorkLife Breastfeeding Support Program in order to help working mothers introduce breastfeeding into their daily work schedules. The program helps the 50,000-plus employees learn how to support breastfeeding co-workers, access equipment and supplies and find a mother’s room nearby. One unique thing about Johns Hopkins’ program is their breastfeeding supplies vending machine, which gives moms access to breast pump accessories, snacks, bottles and more at work.
Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa — For many medical systems, it’s equally as much about education as it is about access. That was the approach of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa, where a breastfeeding advisory committee was formed to provide employees with guidance. They also provide several free, multi-use breast pumps and comfortable lactation rooms for employees. This should come as no surprise, since the hospital has the highest breastfeeding rates at discharge among patients for the Northern California region.

Jersey Shore University Medical Center — In Neptune, N.J., the Jersey Shore University Medical Center is working hard to ensure that nursing at work is as convenient and comfortable as possible. The hospital created a single pumping space designed with a “home-like” environment, complete with comfortable seating, soft lighting, a sink and a refrigerator. The center also provides many resources for new moms, including classes and breastfeeding guidance. Of course, these nursing gurus are more than happy to help brand-new moms find the best maternity scrubs pants, too!

Mount Carmel Health Systems — Central Ohio’s Mount Carmel Health Systems is also one of the leaders in terms of workplace nursing practices. While the hospital doesn’t permit new moms to bring their babies into work for the entirety of the day, it does encourage caretakers to bring infants to working moms at feeding intervals. The hospital system also offers home-like lactation spaces, complete with comfy chairs, stools, refrigerators, sinks and fans.

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Pennsylvania Hospital
— Despite the fact that Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is the nation’s oldest hospital (it was built in 1751 by Ben Franklin), the hospital system worked hard to retrofit a portion of the historical building to create an impressive five lactation rooms. And, like Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania Hospital put a priority on ensuring that women have all the supplies they need to nurse at work through a women’s health boutique that even includes certified nursing bra-fitters.

Women & Infants Hospital — As the largest maternity hospital in Rhode Island, Providence-based Women & Infants Hospital puts a strong focus on its patients and employees. The center provides employee-use, electric breast pumps within three dedicated milk expression rooms, as well as back-to-work classes and private consultations with board-certified lactation consultants before, during and after maternity leave. Employees also have access to discounted breast pumps and supplies for sale in the hospital’s lactation store.

Nevada State Health Division — The Nevada State Health Division joins Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota and several other state health departments as a baby-friendly workplace where employees can bring their babies to work. While nursing, state health department employees have access to a comfortable lactation space equipped with a rocking chair, a phone and other comfortable amenities. Nevada’s Infants-at-Work Policy applies to parents or legal gardens who are full- and part-time employees of the state health division, and is open to employees until their children are mobile.

Deborah Swanson is a former Hospital Administrator who now works with allheart.com celebrating caregivers. She keeps busy interviewing medical professionals, writing for blogs, and gardening.

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