Wichita State instructor reaches for ‘Community Supporting Breastfeeding’ designation in Wichita

Wichita State offers lactation rooms in Lindquist, Ahlberg and Brennen halls, where mothers can breast feed.

But there’s an effort on campus and in Wichita to further support breastfeeding mothers.

Because WSU already provides lactation rooms and has a policy for breastfeeding mothers returning to the workplace, Brenda Bandy, program director for the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, urges the university to show its support for this initiative by posting “breastfeeding welcome here” decals around campus and applying for the Employer Support Award.

“We want to make sure that as an organization, WSU gets the recognition that they deserve, so that they can be counted toward the designation,” Bandy said. “[That will show] WSU is going to be fully on board and do what they can to make sure these designation criteria are met.”

The Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition hosted a conference Friday at Wesley Medical Center to discuss strategies about how to engage more businesses to help Wichita earn the designated as a “Community Supporting Breastfeeding.”

Jolynn Dowling, an instructor in the School of Nursing, said she is pleased with the steps the university has taken to make campus more supportive of breastfeeding. But it could do more, starting with Innovation Campus, she said.

“We have three designated lactation rooms for employees, but I’d like to see more of those around campus,” Dowling said. “That’s something to keep in mind as we build our [Innovation Campus] structures is, do we have something that can serve to accommodate that population of student because [they’re] of age? Whether it’s students or employees, to be able to use and have those accommodations available to them and have a private place to be able to provide the best nutrition to their babies.”

With four of the six required criteria already in place for Wichita to be designated as a “Community Supporting Breastfeeding,” Dowling said that’s why she thinks Wichita was one of five communities in Kansas selected to gain assistance from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Bureau of Family Health (Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Program) and the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, Inc., to achieve this designation by July 1, 2016.

While Wichita has most of the requirements completed, where it lacks is in business and employer support, she said. Wichita has seven businesses that display a “breastfeeding welcome here” decal and needs 25 to earn the designation.

“It is important for Wichita because it sets a minimum standard for what a community would look like that is supportive of breastfeeding,” Bandy said “It gives them an idea, as a community, to look beyond just one sector. This allows Wichita to look broadly at all the different areas in which a mom can be supported. I think this will be a terrific example to our larger Kansas cities to say, ‘You can do this, too.’”

Dowling, a member of the KBC and former neonatal nurse practitioner and lactation consultant at Wesley Medical Center, said the KBC will help communities build a web of support for women who are breastfeeding to increase the duration rate of feeding, which is directly linked to the overall health, onset of disease and mortality rate in children.

She said there are many benefits associated with this designation including greater public health, decreased infant morbidity rates, cost effectiveness and employer benefits.

“It’s nutrition, yes, but it’s also long-term health benefits that we will hopefully see happen as our infants are born and grow,” she said. “The other impact to the employer… is that they have higher retention of employees and happier employees. Women who are breastfeeding their babies have infants who are healthier and so the parents are missing work less often because their children aren’t sick as often. The economic impact to the employer, the return on investment, if you will, is also something that needs to be stated as a positive.”

When communities support breastfeeding, including the general public, employers, family members and friends, the mother is much more successful in her breastfeeding goals, said Kathy Walker, lactation services manager at Wesley Medical Center.

Wesley is the only hospital in Kansas that has received a “baby friendly” designation by the World Health Organization

In order to achieve the CSB designation, Wichita must have the following established within the community:

• A local breastfeeding coalition;

• A breastfeeding support group;

• A hospital committed to providing maternity care supportive of breastfeeding;

• Businesses that support their breastfeeding employees;

• Businesses who support mothers needing to breastfeed in their establishment;

• Childcare providers who support breastfeeding families.

“What we mainly need to focus on is recruiting employers and businesses to be involved with supporting breastfeeding women,” Dowling said.

Although slim on business support, the biggest challenge Wichita faces in receiving this designation is public perception, she said.  

“The dialogue, historically, [has been that] people don’t like to talk about breastfeeding,” Dowling said. “Our western culture doesn’t think about the functionality of the breast as providing nutrition to babies and so, if we can change the culture of our community toward thinking that breast milk is the best nutrition to provide for the baby and that’s done through nursing and breastfeeding, then we can somehow shift our culture to recognize that this is normal, and that this is a function of our anatomy and physiology.”