November 5, 2007
Emory helps new moms get comfortables
Lisa Newbern is chief of public affairs at the Yerkes National Primate
Research Center and junior chair-elect of the President’s Commission on the
Status of Women.
As I write this, I am watching my 4-year-old daughter sleep while I feel her sibling-to-be moving inside me (by the time you are reading this, my husband, daughter and I may have welcomed the newest addition to our family). During such peaceful times, my mind wanders to how much has changed since I rejoined Emory nearly five years ago.
Shortly after beginning my job, my husband and I learned of our pregnancy. There was so much that was new to us, including how we felt when people asked us if I would breastfeed. As I wrote several years ago in an article for the Center for Women’s News and Narratives, “I didn’t want breastfeeding to be a stressful issue for us. I kept thinking and saying, ‘If it works, great; if not, that’s what formula is for.’”
More so now than ever, I realize how naïve I was and how fortunate I was our daughter immediately took to breastfeeding. That fortune continued when I returned to work and had a private, clean place in which I could express breast milk.
Not too long after returning to work, I started attending Staff Concerns Committee meetings of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. That’s when I learned other new moms were not so fortunate upon returning to work — if they couldn’t make it to the Nursing Nest in the Center for Women, too many were left with the option of using public restrooms to provide their preferred choice of nourishment for their children or, reluctantly, turning to formula. Having had to express milk a few times in public restrooms, I knew Emory could do better for its new moms.
That’s when fortune again presented itself — this time via Ali Crown, director of the Center for Women, when she asked Susan Carini, then chair of the Staff Concerns Committee and now chair of the PCSW, to consider addressing the lack of lactation spaces at Emory.
I volunteered to research the benefits of breastfeeding and
to conduct benchmarking research to see how Emory compared to its peers. Reading about the benefits of breastfeeding was encouraging; learning how Emory compared was discouraging.
Armed with the detailed research, including supporting documentation from leading health organizations and data from 21 colleges and universities plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the PCSW approached the University’s administration for support. The president, provost and executive vice president for finance all responded with their commitment to increase the number of lactation resources available at Emory.
Such commitment led to a longstanding partnership initially involving University administrators, the PCSW and the Center for Women; this group continues to expand as our work progresses. Working together led not only to a lactation policy that expresses the University’s commitment to providing new mothers with private, safe and accessible lactation locations across campus (what we call our Zone Approach so moms won’t have to walk more than a reasonable distance), but also to today’s total of 13 private spaces spread throughout Emory’s main campus as well as one on the Briarcliff campus. Many of these have permanent breast pumps installed.
And, we’re not done. We’re working to identify spaces at Oxford and Grady, and we’re opening new spaces as we can. The most recent space is in the School of Medicine Medical Education building, and the next to come will be in a renovated space within the 1599 Clifton Road building.
How have we enacted such change in such a short period of time? Great partners! From Dr. Stuart Zola, my boss, who supports my involvement in this initiative to Mike Mandl and David Hanson in Finance, and Stephanie Davies-Dickinson and Lindsay Cross in Campus Services Interiors Design as well as Eddie Gammill of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program — and continued support from Crown, Carini and others involved with the PCSW — the commitment to moms returning to work has never been stronger.
This brings me to how each of you reading this article can help. Let me start by arming you with some breastfeeding facts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding, “Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it.” The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition offers: “Breastfeeding support at the workplace can positively impact the bottom line by lowering health care costs, enhancing productivity, improving employee satisfaction, increasing retention and improving corporate image.”
Given employee/patient confidentiality issues, there is no list of new moms to call or e-mail about Emory’s lactation resources. So, we’ve had to be creative and steadfast in our educational efforts. To date, we have shared information via occasional articles in Emory Report, Web postings, an FSAP-sponsored InfoStop and word of mouth.
Now that you know what’s available, you, too, can partner with us in our communication efforts — now and in the months and years to come. Emory’s female employees are certain to continue having babies and returning to work. This means for our efforts to be truly successful, our communication must continue, too.
I am so proud to be part of a team that has made such remarkable achievements on behalf of Emory moms. Whereas I now find myself focused on the changes to come — a continued increase in Emory’s lactation resources as well as welcoming the newest member of my family — I also know when I return to work a few short months from now, I won’t have to give breastfeeding a second thought.
Each of you can help give other new moms a similar comfort level. I thank you in advance for anything you are willing to say or do to talk about the lactation resources Emory offers today as well as those to be.