Making it work: World Breastfeeding Week raises awareness
By Marissa Bond
The Las Cruces Bulletin
Adrianna Rigales’ daughter, Elise, was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. She was unable to latch on to nurse, but Rigales knew the importance of breastfeeding and was committed to being able to provide her daughter with breast milk.
“Having breastfed my son for two years, it was devastating to me that I couldn’t breastfeed her, so the next best thing I could do for her would be to pump,” Rigales said.
For 14 months, Rigales pumped 10 to 12 times within each 24 hour period in order to maintain her milk supply. In order to keep a regular schedule, Rigales needed to pump three to four times during the workday.
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and this year’s theme is “Let’s Make it Work,” highlighting the right for parents to breastfeed in the workplace and ensuring both parents and employers are aware of the laws in place to protect pumping in the workplace.
“When you think of breastfeeding you don’t imagine your role,” said Marisol Kearney, a breastfeeding workplace liaison with the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce.
“But everyone in the community has a role and it’s an important role, even if it is just being patient with a mother who is breastfeeding and understanding that it is natural and normal and healthy.”
In New Mexico, employers must provide nursing employees with flexible break times and a clean, private space for the using the breast pump that is near the employee’s workspace but not a bathroom.
‘They just need a space and it needs to be private and clean,” Kearney said. “Sometimes that can look like the supply closet, and you are pumping right next to the manila folders, or it can be a space behind a screen, or a closed door with your back to it.”
As an employee in Memorial Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Rigales’ workspace had many spaces for her to pump.
“I was lucky,” Rigales said. “I don’t know how it would be in a different setting, but I work in the NICU at Memorial Medical Center, so we have a breastfeeding room for our patients and we also have a breastfeeding employee space where we have a chair, like a bedside table, a TV, a bathroom in there. Enough for two people if needed, so we have an extra curtain that can be drawn, we see each other all the time anyway so we just become comfortable with it, don’t see it as anything to be ashamed of.”
Pumping in the workplace is important to maintaining a steady supply of milk.
“It’s a supply and demand, so if you don’t remove, you’re not going to make more,” Rigales said. “If I would have only pumped 5 times in a 24 hour period, I would not have had the supply that I do have for her.”
The benefits of breast milk in comparison with formula are well-documented. Among many potential benefits, studies have found a positive correlation between breastfeeding and cognitive development. Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of respiratory tract infections and may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A 2002 study in Scotland found that breastfeeding reduced the risk of obesity by 30 percent by age 3. As research continues, the list of quantifiable benefits of breastfeeding continues to grow.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, gradually introducing other foods along with continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
“Moms want to do the best things for their babies,” nurse and lactation consultant Kathy Douglas said. “Many moms need to work financially in order to help their household, so they shouldn’t have to compromise — they shouldn’t have to choose. So they are giving their baby the best possible food and they are able to continue that very well by pumping when they are away from home.”
Rigales credits breastfeeding her daughter with improved health.
“Usually babies born with cleft lip and cleft palates are prone to ear infections, and since I was able to pump for her she only got one ear infection to date,” Rigales said. “Her health has been really, really good, and I’ve been lucky that she doesn’t get sick or get infections.”
Douglas said a healthy baby benefits employers, too.
“If the employer can accommodate the mom in that way — and they need to, it’s what the law says — the mom’s going to be a really loyal employee,” she said.
“Her baby’s not going to be sick very often at all, because babies that receive formula have more illnesses, so mom’s going to be a very content and satisfied employee, and won’t need to take time off from work to care for a sick child, so it really benefits the employer.”
“Especially if you consider if they provide insurance, there’s fewer claims,” Kearney said.
Several support groups in Las Cruces and surrounding areas help new and expectant mothers with questions and concerns about breastfeeding at home and in the workplace.
Mama’s Milk Club Breastfeeding Support Group meets 10 to 11:30 a.m. every Friday at Memorial Medical Center, 2450 S. Telshor Blvd., West Annex, Piñon A meeting room. For information, call Tracy at 5215393.
Mountain View New Parent Support Group meets 10 to 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday at Mountain View Senior Circle, 3948 Lohman Ave., Suite 1. For information, call Kimberly at 321-2983153.
Lunchtime Latch meets 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Department of Health, 1170 N. Solano Drive, WIC classroom 1108. For information, call Andrea at 496-3695 or the Department of Health at 5285000.
The Mommy Life meets 10 to 11:30 a.m. the first and third Wednesday of the month at Army Community Service Building 250 in White Sands Missile Range. For information, call Marisol at 644- 5981.
For more information on breastfeeding in the workplace, visit www. womenshealth.gov or the World Breastfeeding Week website, www. worldbreastfeedingweek. org.
For more information on the New Mexico Breastfeeding Alliance, call 404-1692 or visit www. breastfeedingnewmexico. org.
Marissa Bond can be reached at marissa@lascrucesbulletin. com.