Penn State Ahead of the Game for Providing Breastfeeding Support

January 21, 2011

On January 20, 2011, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released the “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding”. The goal of the report is to call on health care providers, employers, insurers, policymakers, researchers, and the community at large to take concrete action steps to support mothers in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.

While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. “I believe that we as a nation are beginning to see a shift in how we think and talk about breastfeeding,” said Dr. Benjamin. “With this ‘Call to Action,’ I am urging everyone to help make breastfeeding easier.” In the report, she adds, “Identifying the support systems that are needed to help mothers meet their personal breastfeeding goals will allow them to stop feeling guilty and alone when problems with breastfeeding arise.”

Penn State University has taken steps to support faculty, staff, and students who want to continue to provide breastmilk to their child(ren) even after returning to work or school at Penn State. Penn State’s Breastfeeding Support Program provides a range of support services at University Park and Abington campuses, with plans to expand to additional campuses in the coming year. According to Dr. Cynthia Bartok, program director, the program is one piece of what Penn State is doing to help remove the barriers that breastfeeding women can face when returning to work. To date, over 150 mothers have utilized the program’s services, and initial feedback shows that 89 percent of mothers report the program made merging breastfeeding and working easier.

The Commission for Women’s recent report on work-family balance raised awareness that additional supports were needed for breastfeeding women.

From this effort, members of the Breastfeeding Support Program, the Commission for Women, and Human Resources combined efforts to write Policy HR-20: Breastfeeding Support. This policy affirms Penn State’s support for employees and students who breastfeed and outlines steps and procedures for women to get the support needed to succeed. For more information on these efforts or to learn about the Breastfeeding Support Program, please call 814-867-0776 or e-mail breastfeeding@psu.edu.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.