This post is the 63rd in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.
Last week a mother in Toronto spoke out after being told that she couldn’t nurse her twins in the infant room of her child care center because it was making a male employee uncomfortable, and because “this is where children play.” She asked for, and got an apology from the City of Toronto, which runs the center.
Child care support for breastfeeding isn’t talked about as much as other breastfeeding issues, and this incident got me thinking about how much of a factor it is in moms’ ability to sustain breastfeeding.
This recent study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) answered my question. It looked at the relationship between child care provider support for breastfeeding and mothers’ breastfeeding duration and found:
Breastfeeding at 6 months was significantly associated with CCP [child care provider] support to feed expressed breast milk and allow mothers to breastfeed at the child care place before or after work. Compared to mothers who reported fewer than 3 total supports, mothers who reported 5 supports were 3 times as likely to be breastfeeding at 6 months. Our findings suggest that CCPs’ breastfeeding support at 3 months, particularly feeding expressed breast milk and allowing mothers to breastfeed before or after work, may help mothers maintain breastfeeding at 6 months.
It’s possible that mothers who were intending to breastfeed longer chose providers they knew were supportive of breastfeeding, but it’s still an interesting finding.
And it’s compelling enough that the Surgeon General, in her Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, makes the recommendation: “Ensure that all child care providers accommodate the needs of breastfeeding mothers and infants,” noting that “because most employed mothers return to work in their babies’ first year of life, providers of child care have a critical role to play in supporting employed mothers who breastfeed.” It’s also why First Lady Michelle Obama has urged child care centers to “Support mothers who want to breast-feed by providing mother’s milk to infants and welcoming mothers who want to breast-feed their children during the child-care day.”
So, on to the Booby Trap. What does the CDC’s report card say about breastfeeding-friendly our child care is? Especially since our “worst in the developed world in breastfeeding support” award was largely due to our short, unpaid maternity leave?
The CDC finds that only 6 of the 50 states have child care regulations requiring that centers “encourage and support breastfeeding and feeding of breast milk by making arrangements for mothers to feed their children comfortably on-site.” Just six.
Now, it’s almost certainly the case that many child care providers support nursing moms on their own, without being required to by the state, but doesn’t the absence of regulation say something about the lack of recognition of this as an issue?
There are some great resources out there about how child care providers can support nursing moms, including this comprehensive toolkit for providers. And there are more resources in a post I wrote for Motherlove Herbal Company recently.
Did/does your child care provider support you as a nursing mom? How? If your provider doesn’t, what could you do to change that?