558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Making Mother Friendly workplaces
Crook County has begun efforts to better support breastfeeding employees at work
Crook County Breastfeeding Coordinator Emma Reynolds shows the logo that will be displayed in Mother Friendly-designated buildings.
February 07, 2013
Because of ongoing efforts to support its breastfeeding employees, Crook County now leads all Oregon counties in the number of Mother Friendly Worksite designations.
In December, the County became the first in Oregon to designate more than one building as Mother Friendly and they plan to take the effort much further in the future.
“The other counties, it’s just their health department,” said Emma Reynolds, breastfeeding coordinator for Crook County, “but we are going to do all 14 of the County-operated buildings.”
So far, they have completed Mother Friendly designations for the Crook County Health Department as well as the Crook County Tax Office.
Crook County instigated the program primarily because of the barriers that new mothers tend to face as they return to work. Reynolds explained that women often struggle to continue breastfeeding because some workplaces lack adequate break policies to express breast milk, as well as the facilities to safely store it.
Enabling the effort, Reynolds and Crook County Human Resources Director Michelle Blomquist worked together to create a workplace policy. It requires access to a private room that is not a restroom, a sink with running water to wash breast-pump pieces, and a refrigerator for milk storage, as well as access to a breast pump and to breastfeeding support from WIC (Woman, Infant, and Child) staff. The Crook County Court approved the policy in August.
The upcoming change is also driven in part by a state law that requires employers of 25 or more people to “make reasonable efforts to provide private space and time for nursing mothers who request a place to express milk for their newborns 18 months of age and younger.”
The County however, places even more stock in the health benefits that such a policy provides. Reynolds noted that breastfeeding transfers all immunizations from the mother to her newborn and that breast milk is easier for babies to digest. It also lowers the likelihood that a mother will suffer from post partum depression or breast cancer.
From an employment standpoint, Blomquist pointed out that women of child-bearing ages make up a large portion of any workforce, and it benefits the County to support new mothers as they try to return to work.
“It goes back to (the fact that) the health of employees and their families has a large reflection on their work,” she said. “This policy was a way to provide flexibility in the workplace while balancing business needs.”
Blomquist added that the designation process and its requirements could provoke some temporary financial hardships for the County, and will likely require them to phase in new facilities slowly.
Reynolds hopes the new policy and upcoming building designations will help the County take the lead in supporting breastfeeding mothers and serve as an example for other Oregon counties to follow.
“We want to be one of the first counties to normalize breastfeeding,” she explained. “What our County is trying to say is we are willing to go that extra step to let not only our employees, but the community know that we are willing to support mothers and we think breastfeeding is a really good thing.”