Wayne State University to receive Michigan Breastfeeding-Friendly Gold Workplace Award

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Wayne State University will receive a Michigan Breastfeeding-Friendly Gold Workplace Award, presented by The Michigan Breastfeeding Network in recognition of its evidence-based breastfeeding support for students, faculty and staff. The award signifies that the university has demonstrated the value it places on breastfeeding by establishing permanent lactation spaces on campus, providing better amenities for breastfeeding mothers and sharing the importance of breastfeeding with employees.

Wayne State’s campaign to create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace was informed by a campuswide, multistakeholder study led by Wayne State medical student Margarita Abella under the mentorship of Dr. Beena Sood, professor with the Wayne State School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. The study assessed the availability of lactation rooms, knowledge of men and women about breastfeeding in the workplace, and breastfeeding support to female employees. Data revealed that 90 percent of women respondents returned to work within three months of having a baby and that 20 percent of those who breastfed stopped before they wanted to because of the need to return to work. Respondents said that most of the lactation rooms on campus did not have adequate amenities to make pumping at work feasible and suggested that women help in planning these lactation rooms.

During the study, initiatives were created to support nursing mothers at Wayne State. Led by Matthew Wisotsky and Katrina Rouan, the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Council created a lactation room within the centrally located David Adamany Undergraduate Library for use by students, staff, faculty and the public. Lactation space was also designated by the School of Social Work. A number of individuals and university groups have supported breastfeeding by disseminating or promoting the study, including engineering Ph.D. student Elisabeth Steel, who raised $750 to support lactation rooms on campus, Facilities Coordinator Sheryl MacGillis, members of the Gender Equity Work-group’s Lactation Committee, AAUP-AFT Local 6075, Women in Medicine and Science, the Commission on the Status of Women, and Detroit Medical Center employees and trainees.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, noting that it provides valuable disease protection against gastrointestinal illness, pneumonia and upper respiratory infections during the first year of life, with continued benefits well into childhood. Health benefits to the mother have also been established, including the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers and lower lifetime risk of osteoporosis and type II diabetes.

According to the Michigan Breastfeeding Network, employers who support breastfeeding employees enjoy a three-to-one return on investment through greater employee retention, increased productivity, lower health care costs and fewer sick days. Organizations with workplace breastfeeding support also attract valued employees who report increased job satisfaction, morale and company loyalty. Breastfeeding-friendly communities promote, protect and support breastfeeding for all families regardless of structure, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity.    

“The Michigan Breastfeeding Network congratulates Wayne State University on their Gold Award and its dedication to advancing breastfeeding outcomes on campus,” the organization said. “Institutions of higher education are key to creating a breastfeeding-friendly Michigan based on their ability to reach a large cross section of the population. Colleges and universities are uniquely poised to influence systems-level change for evidence-based breastfeeding support. Systemic change focuses on large sectors of society where normalization of breastfeeding has far-reaching ramifications.”

Abella and Sood were joined on the study by Claire Pearson, M.D., Deepak Kamat, Michelle Fecteau, Sarah Doyle, Hieu Nguyen, Deepak Yadav, Amit Sharma, Alexandra Orchard and LaTonya Motley.  According to Doyle, an M.S.W. advisor with the Wayne State School of Social Work, the university’s breastfeeding initiative shows the power of collaboration and the importance of thinking about employee health holistically.

“This project not only represented the importance of breastfeeding in the workplace, but the significance of an entire community at Wayne State coming together to support women in the workforce,” Doyle said. “Helping our employees keep their families healthy and strong is one of the best ways we can stay healthy and strong as a university.”

The Michigan Breastfeeding Network will present the award to Wayne State University during a ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center Room B/C. Wayne State students, faculty and staff along with community families, breastfeeding supporters and the media are encouraged to join for pictures and celebration. Light refreshments will also be served. For additional information on the event visit the Wayne State Event Calendar. For more information on the Michigan Breastfeeding Network, visit their website or contact info@mibreastfeeding.org.

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The mission of The Michigan Breastfeeding Network (MIBFN) is to lead the statewide collaborative actions for advocacy, education, and coalition building to create a supportive breastfeeding culture.

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