First 5 San Diego Joins Initiative to Establish Breastfeeding-Friendly Environments
The nutritional benefits of breastfeeding have a lifelong impact. It promotes healthy growth and development, and contains all of the vitamins and nutrients needed for the first six months of life. Breast milk also helps to fight diseases by aiding in building a strong immune system and aids in reducing the risk of obesity. However, in the United States, only 79% of babies start out being breastfed, and only 19% are exclusively breastfed six months later. Many mothers stop because when they return to work, they do not have the essential tools, space and support to breastfeed and/or express their milk. This is why it is important to establish safe and supportive environments for breastfeeding mothers.
The Lactation Supportive Environments Initiative (LSE) works to increase access to environments that support the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. Funded by First 5 San Diego, LSE is a collaborative effort between the University of California San Diego Center for Community Health and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to help worksites, schools districts and community healthcare clinics (CHC) establish breastfeeding-friendly environments. LSE supports partners in making changes through a comprehensive framework including technical assistance for policy development, systems change strategies, environmental transformation recommendations, development of practice based models, resources, customized trainings and collaboration with multiple stakeholders, including the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, Women, Infant and Children Program, California School Board Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics to name a few.
LSE currently works with 22 worksites reaching over 16,000 employees across San Diego County and plans to recruit eight more by the end of the year.
CH2M Hill, a global leader in consulting, design operations and program management based in San Diego, is among the worksites and has recently been nominated for the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition’s Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award. CH2M Hill created a comfortable lactation room for employees and guests and a well-communicated company-wide accommodation policy in addition to the breastfeeding resources and educational materials provide by LSE.
“I have always been interested in creating productive, safe, and efficient workplaces, so that also meant expanding that concept to a lactation room,” said Jamie Hernandez, facilities and operations lead for CH2M Hill.
The initiative also provides policy support, resources and trainings to 10 school districts in San Diego County reaching over 8,000 district employees. In addition, LSE has recruited six CHCs and will focus their efforts on supporting them in 10 key areas including: breastfeeding friendly policies (lactation accommodation, infant feeding, and breastfeeding friendly office environment), staff education, clinical services, community resources, financial sustainability, collaboration and electronic health records recommendations.