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Akron Children’s Hospital helps make businesses more breastfeeding friendly

11-15-2021 (Akron, Ohio )

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a leading cause of death for children under one. While safe sleep practices and a smoke-free environment help reduce the risk of SIDS, breastfeeding also plays an important role in keeping infants safe.

Despite the health benefits of breastfeeding, around 80 percent of breastfeeding employees discontinue it within the first month of returning to work.

Through funding from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Akron Children’s Hospital is helping local businesses become more breastfeeding friendly.

Akron Children’s is doing this by:

  • Providing consultation services and educating employers on the importance of breastfeeding and lactation accommodation policies within the workplace
  • Assisting with the creation or revision of company lactation policies to meet or exceed the federal law;
  • Providing feedback for designated spaces for milk expression;
  • Providing resources for employees such as the Ohio Breastfeeding 24/7 helpline, information on federal law and lactation consultation resources in the area.

“We know that breastfeeding provides health benefits for both the infant and the breastfeeding employee,” said Cesley Hayes, Injury Prevention Specialist, ODH Safe Sleep at Akron Children’s. “However, a lot of businesses don’t have a formal lactation policy in place and try to create one on a case-by-case basis after an employee returns from leave. Having a formal policy assures fair and equitable access to accommodations by all employees and defines roles and responsibilities for employers and employees.”

In early spring of 2021, Akron Children’s Hospital reached out to nearly 25 business and organizations in Summit County and educated 12 employers on the importance breastfeeding and of lactation policies in the workplace through virtual meetings. By the end of September, six businesses -- City of Akron, Akron METRO RTA, Greenleaf Family Center, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, United Way of Summit and Medina, and Minority Behavioral Health Group -- adopted a new written policy for their agency and received 50 Return-to-Work Toolkits for their employees.

The Return-to-Work Toolkits include:

  • An insulated cooler for milk storage
  • Ice packs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottle
  • Lactation consultation services brochures
  • An employee resource guide for returning to work

Akron Children’s will continue helping businesses shape breastfeeding policies into 2022 through ODH continuation funding. Akron Children’s also provides outpatient lactation services to anyone needing support with breastfeeding. For more information on how a business can create a breastfeeding policy, or to learn more about lactation support, contact Cesley Hayes at chayes2@akronchildrens.org or 330-543-5419.