Seymour Community School Corp. is developing a policy to support and encourage mothers in the workforce who are breastfeeding.
School nurse director Sherry Reinhart presented the proposed guidelines to promote breastfeeding during a school board meeting Tuesday night. There was no discussion, but the policy will be up for a vote during the April 11 meeting.
Reinhart, co-coordinator of the Seymour Health Advisory Committee, said breastfeeding improves infant and mother health and strengthens the mother/child bond, but it’s often difficult for teachers and other staff members to collect their milk during the workday and continue breastfeeding after they return to work from maternity leave.
“Our mission is to improve the health and wellness in our school community, focusing on students and staff and extending to the families in our community, and one of the things we have worked on is breastfeeding guidelines in the school setting,” she said. “We all know that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system of the infant and supports the mother/infant bond.”
By keeping infants healthy through breastfeeding, mothers will not have to miss work as much to stay home with a sick baby and will have decreased medical claims, she added.
Breastfeeding also helps out families financially because they do not have to spend money on formula, she said.
Indiana is one of 27 states that have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.
State code 16-35-6 allows a woman to breastfeed her child “anywhere the law allows her to be,” and 5-10-6-2 and 22-2-14-2 provide that “state and political (government) subdivisions (offices) shall provide for reasonable paid breaks for an employee to express (pump) breast milk for her infant, make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express breast milk in private and make reasonable efforts to provide for a refrigerator to keep breast milk.”
The law, which went into effect in 2008, also provides that any employer with more than 25 employees must do the same.
Last year, the Indiana State Department of Health issued a breastfeeding plan called Labor of Love with the goal of increasing breastfeeding rates across the state to help reduce infant deaths.
The state’s breastfeeding rates lag behind the national average, and the majority of Hoosier mothers do not breastfeed long enough, according to the state health department.
If adopted, all Seymour schools will allow employees who are breastfeeding to take “milk expression” breaks and provide a lactation room for mothers to use.
Instead of going to a stall in the restroom, school employees will have access to a private and sanitary room for milk expression or will be allowed to do so in their own office.
There is no requirement that a room be set aside solely for the use of nursing mothers, Reinhart said, but the location must provide a chair, table or flat surface, electrical outlet, door that can be locked from the inside and nearby access to running water.
Employees would be responsible for communicating their needs to their principal or supervisor. They also would have to supply all of their own milk expression equipment and keep milk expression areas clean and ready for the next user.
Employees would be able to bring their own storage cooler, but if breast milk is kept in a workplace refrigerator, it must be clearly labeled with the mother’s name and the date on it and must be removed daily.
If the policy is approved by the school board, it will be included in the teacher and employee handbook, Reinhart said.