The Allegheny County Health Department, in cooperation with its Breastfeeding Promotion Steering Committee, is taking nominations for its 17th annual Breastfeeding Friendly Place Awards.
The awards are presented to workplaces, public places and other sites away from home that make an extra effort to meet the needs of breastfeeding moms by offering a positive attitude and supportive environment.
The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers, at a minimum, to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from public view and free from intrusion."
In addition, the Pennsylvania Freedom to Breastfeed Act permits a mother to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present.
Employers can help breastfeeding moms by offering flex time or extended paid maternity leave; a health plan with breast pump coverage; work site day care; and making provisions for breastfeeding at work, such as an appropriate place and accommodating time for pumping milk and a refrigerator in which to store the milk.
Public places and other areas away from home -- restaurants, malls, libraries, theaters, parks, places of worship as well as sports and entertainment facilities -- can be supportive by providing an attractive, clean, private area and comfortable seating for mothers to use when nursing, and by having signage to welcome breastfeeding mothers and let them know special accommodations are available.
Health officials maintain that making places outside the home more breastfeeding friendly will encourage women to breastfeed longer and as a result babies and moms will derive greater health benefits from breastfeeding.
Studies show health benefits increase when babies are breastfed for six months or longer. However, surveys have found that only 44.3 percent of babies nationwide and 37.6 percent in Pennsylvania are breastfed six months or longer, due in part to a lack of support in the workplace and other areas outside the home.
Breastfeeding friendly workplaces are also good for business, because breastfed babies are less likely to get sick throughout childhood and that means lower absentee rates for working moms and dads due to a child's illness.
To nominate an employer, public place or other site outside the home for the awards, please call the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD or visit www.achd.net. Nominations will be accepted until May 11, and the awards will be announced during World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7.
The award winners last year were the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health in the workplace category and The Senator John Heinz History Center and New Hope Assembly of God church in Elizabeth Township in the public place category.
In previous years, The Nursing Mothers Room at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Nordstrom Ross Park Mall, the Children's Museum, Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless, Babies "R" Us in Monroeville, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, The Mall at Robinson and Shaare Torah Congregation in Squirrel Hill were winners in the public place category.
Workplace winners have included The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Pittsburgh Branch, Community Technical Assistance Center, Ernst & Young LLP, MEDRAD, INC ., The Children's Home and Lemieux Family Center, Bayer Corp ., FedEx Ground, NOVA Chemicals, Development Dimensions International, PNC Financial Services Group, Crouse & Company, Magee Womens Hospital, Sewickley Valley Hospital, Deloitte Consulting Group, Mellon Bank, Price and Associates, and the dental practice of Dr. Arman Kilic.