Southampton Town hopes to soon receive recognition for its efforts in supporting nursing mothers and become the first designated breastfeeding friendly municipal workplace on Long Island.
The designation requires that a worksite develop a breastfeeding friendly policy and offer a private space to express milk, flexible break times, education about breastfeeding rights and support for mothers who return to work and continue breastfeeding. Under state law, workplaces are required to offer unpaid breaks for the first three years of a child’s life and make “reasonable efforts” to offer space to express milk privately.
“They don’t need much. Just a place to pump, and support from their colleagues,” said Yingna Wang, a program co-coordinator with the Breastfeeding Resiliency, Engagement and Empowerment (BFREE) program, which delivered a presentation to the Southampton Town Board on Thursday. The program is administered through Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center with state funding.
Northwell Health was one of six organizations in 2016 to receive funding to establish breastfeeding friendly community support initiatives. The organization has previously offered the breastfeeding friendly workplace designation to hospitals, ob-gyn practices and child-care facilities.
Though 86 percent of babies born in New York State are initially breastfed, only 56 percent are breastfed for the recommended six months, according to the New York State Department of Health. BFREE representatives said workplace policies could improve those numbers.
“Once you get to six months' duration, we’re pretty lacking [in participation from nursing mothers],” said program co-coordinator Maggie Sherin. “We’re trying to help get systems in place to help women meet that goal longer."
Southampton Town Human Resources director Sandra Cirincione said it was only two years ago that Southampton designated a small Town Hall office with a refrigerator and a locking door as its lactation room. She said two mothers have since used it and she hopes the town will approve a formal breastfeeding policy at its July 23 meeting.
Southampton was one of four Long Island communities — the others being Glen Cove, Wyandanch and Islip — identified by the state Department of Health as areas of need based on low breastfeeding and high obesity rates, according to BFREE.