Workplace lactation program benefits returning mothers at SPAWAR

Breastfeeding benefits mother, baby and society. However, many new mothers never initiate breastfeeding or stop prematurely because they know they will have to return to work shortly after their baby is born.

What if there was a way new mothers could return to work and still breastfeed? Some businesses recognize the benefits of breastfeeding, and support working mothers who want to continue to provide breast milk for their baby.

SPAWAR, the Space and Naval Warfare Command in San Diego, is a supporter of working mothers who want to continue breastfeeding. Rear Admiral Patrick H. Bradley, the SPAWAR commander, stated, “Working mothers play an important role in SPAWAR’s mission to deliver Information Dominance capabilities to the fleet.”

SPAWAR worked with Anne Kashiwa, Workplace Lactation Policy

workplace Lactation SPAWAR

Coordinator for Healthy Works. The command had two existing mothers’ rooms. Anne provided assistance with policy development and supplied educational resources for their employees to complement the mothers’ rooms.

Anne emphasizes the importance of developing policy because “having a policy clarifies procedures, communicates support, and assures sustainability.” With assistance from Healthy Works, SPAWAR found out they had an existing policy for lactation. The Federal Government passed a lactation policy in December 2010, which applies to all government agencies, confirming their support for breastfeeding. 

In addition, Healthy Works provided SPAWAR with information and resources on breastfeeding for their department heads and employees. Support and resource guides were made for each mothers’ room. The guides included information on working and breastfeeding, along with local and national resources.

Although the majority of SPAWAR’s employees are male, the command decided they needed more mothers’ rooms. There are currently four mothers’ rooms on-site that provide a comfortable and private space for breastfeeding employees. The rooms are equipped with amenities such as reclining chairs, refrigerators for storing breast milk, and resource guides. As of August 2011, there were 24 women utilizing the rooms.

“The mothers’ rooms at SPAWAR allow me to provide the best food for my baby while still supporting my contribution to the command,” said Maureen Cameron, a SPAWAR contracts specialists and breastfeeding mother. “They foster a sense of community between the new mothers in my office.” 

Working mothers are not the only ones benefiting from the lactation program. SPAWAR recognizes that accommodating breastfeeding employees will help reduce healthcare costs, decrease absenteeism and improve employee morale.

SPAWAR was recognized for its excellent lactation accommodation program. The command won the 2010 Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace award from the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition and the 2011 Mother-Baby Friendly workplace award from the California Breastfeeding Coalition. SPAWAR is the only federal agency honored with these awards. 

For more information about breastfeeding and working, or to implement a lactation accommodation program within your business, visit the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition website.

By Shana Wright, UC San Diego-Center for Community Health Workplace Lactation Program