Breast milk is nutritionally the most natural food for babies, although initially it is a difficult learning experience for both mother and baby. What we quickly realize is that while it is completely natural, it is something that both the mother and baby need to learn how to do together. It can take a while to master breastfeeding, but when you do, you feel like a pro! That is, until you step out of your house for the first time and need to nurse your child in public. You may feel awkward and uncomfortable to nurse in front of others, even with a cover. A new mother may hide in dark corners, their car, or even a public restroom to nurse their child for fear of what others may think. Sound familiar? (Not to mention, no one wants to eat in a restroom, so why should your baby?!) After a few times of going out in public you may figure out what works best for you and your baby and begin to feel more comfortable and less conscientious.
Then the dreaded time comes for you to return to work, and you’re back to square one with having to learn a whole new routine. Around this time a million questions may start popping into your head: will I produce enough milk? Where will I pump? Where will I store my milk? When will I have time to pump? And, what will my employer think? The good news is that there are resources and help available for you. Many people are unaware that there are laws protecting your right to continue to breastfeed your child after you return to work. That is why we are here: to help guide you through your transition of becoming a new mother to a successful breastfeeding/working mother, by improving breastfeeding awareness throughout the Greater New Orleans area.
About the Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition
The vision of The Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition’s is for all mothers, children and families in the Greater New Orleans area to have the opportunity to receive education and information about the benefits of breastfeeding.We plan to accomplish this vision through
GNOBAC is comprised of clinicians, public health professionals, mothers, and individuals that are focused on changing the norms around breastfeeding in the Greater New Orleans area. By increasing social and environmental support for breastfeeding, more children will have the opportunity to receive the most nutritious first food and increase the likeliness of living a healthy life. GNOBAC works with community partners who have similar goals of improving breastfeeding rates in the New Orleans area. Programs and social interventions are implemented in conjunction with multiple partners, including but not limited to: New Orleans Health Department, East Jefferson Hospital, Ochsner Hospital and Tulane’s Mary Amelia Center.
In June 2013, GNOBAC was awarded a grant from the W.K Kellogg Foundation, one of the world’s largest private foundations. The grant is being used to help improve community education through social media, childcare centers, businesses, and hospitals.
Community Education on Breastfeeding: Know Your Rights
We are frequently contacted when breastfeeding moms experience discrimination in the workplace, at businesses, or in public. It is GNOBAC’s goal to educate local businesses on a larger scale for breastfeeding moms. We seek to always be in tune and responsive to needs of breastfeeding families and educate and empower the community to make necessary changes to make breastfeeding a norm.
In light of August being declared National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, GNOBAC has kicked off its campaign to display messages around New Orleans about the federal and state workplace lactation laws. You may have already seen these ads on buses, bus shelters, and billboards. Our aim is to raise awareness about this law so that working women know their rights in the workplace.
Studies have proven that breastfeeding is one of the best ways a mother can protect the health of her infant and herself. Some of the benefits include lower risks of infections in infants and a decreased risk of several types of cancer in the mother, including breast and ovarian cancer. It is very important to have family and community support to ensure the success of a nursing mother. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding after the first year. Mothers who are most successful have supportive families and resources in the community that they can turn to for guidance and help. Support is not only vital in the early days of breastfeeding, but equally as important when a nursing mother returns to work. In addition to the endless benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby, employers can also benefit from their breastfeeding employee by:
- Having fewer medical insurance claims for businesses due to reduced health care costs for breastfed infants
- Lower turnover rates
- Additional health care savings
- Higher productivity and loyalty of their employee
Childcare Centers: Help Them Get Educated
Many women are now choosing to breastfeed their newborns. However, returning to work and enrolling an infant in out-of-home care can make it hard for mothers to continue breastfeeding. In addition, some child care providers may not be completely comfortable with safe storage, transportation, and utilization of pumped breast milk. The Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition (GNOBAC), in collaboration with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition and Tulane’s Mary Amelia Center, offers a Breastfeeding-Friendly Child Care Center training, which will help to improve support for breastfeeding in Louisiana child care centers. Child Care Health Consultants and lactation consultants conduct this training, and cover how to support breastfeeding families and implement best practices for handling expressed breast milk. Training is completely free of charge and takes approximately 1 hour to complete.
Hospital Initiative: If You Want to Nurse, Say So!
In 2011 GNOBAC partnered with The Gift, Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition, Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Louisiana WIC program to sponsor the development and distribution of crib cards to all New Orleans area hospitals, as well as other hospitals around the state. Formula companies typically provide free crib cards to hospitals; these were intended to replace those cards. 60,000 cards with breastfeeding information were distributed to LA hospitals.
GNOBAC is also working hand in hand with East Jefferson General Hospital’s Best Fed Beginnings Collaborative, a national project that is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is in partnership with Baby-Friendly USA. The nationwide quality improvement initiative assists hospitals to improve maternity care through evidence based research and to increase the success rate of mothers who choose to breastfeed.
Spread the Love: Donate Your Milk
When I returned to work after my son was born, I had tremendous support and resources. I was able to pump whenever I needed to and ended up with very nice stash of frozen milk. I was very fortunate to always have freshly pumped milk for my son that he never needed my frozen supply. What was I going to do with all of this extra milk? A lactation nurse told me about the not for profit, Human Milk Bank Association of North America. Mothers donate their extra breast milk to approved milk banks where the milk is pasteurized and distributed to critically ill and premature infants in NICUs all across America. Not only was I able to nourish my own child, I was able to help save the lives of several other babies by donating 1,045 ounces of breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin! I attribute this to my endless support at home and in the workplace.
Trouble Ahead: When Your Employer Isn’t Supportive
Although I returned to work with wonderful breastfeeding support from my employer, unfortunately I lost my job in relation to a reduction of force in February 2013. I was heartbroken. I quickly learned how fortunate I was to have all of the amenities and understanding about breastfeeding from my previous employer. I began working immediately for another company where I learned that not everyone is so supportive. I was offered to pump in the bathroom, harassed about “still” nursing my son who was 14 months old, and scrutinized for every second of my legally afforded two 15 minute breaks that I used for pumping. I stood my ground and pumped in the conference room which was the only “private” area to pump. My employer was neither breastfeeding nor family friendly. Even though I no longer work for that company (no surprise), I do not regret working there for two short months. It taught me how much our community truly needs the education of the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of support in the workplace. I am proudly continuing to nurse my 19 month old and am now working as the Program Manager for The Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition to help our community accept breastfeeding as the norm.
Jennifer was born and raised in New Orleans. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans with a B.A. in Spanish. She has been married to her devoted husband Martin of over 9 years. Jennifer has served as a dedicated military wife, mother, and community volunteer. She is an Active member of the Junior League of New Orleans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, Core Committee Member of East Jefferson General Hospital’s Best Fed Beginnings Learning Collaborative, and Program Manager for the Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition. After many of life’s obstacles, Jennifer and Martin welcomed their much anticipated miracle, Max, to the world in January 2012. Besides being a breastfeeding activist, Jennifer’s passion is her family. She loves lazy Sundays, exercising, cooking and cuddle time with her two favorite guys.