A Brookings group and the state Department of Health want businesses to support breastfeeding employees and customers. The city is a pilot community for the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Initiative. The program educates businesses and employees on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as state and federal law.
Several years ago Victoria Wakeman found herself in a department store with a baby who needed to nurse. An employee told her to feed her baby on the toilet.
“I thought to myself, in that moment, what would it be like if I ate my lunch on the toilet? And it just hurt me to think of my baby eating with me sitting on a toilet.”
She says things have changed since then. That’s due in part to the group Brookings Supports Breastfeeding, members started facilitating conversations in the community in 2012. Because of these efforts, the Department of Health chose the city to pilot the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Initiative. Businesses commit to providing a welcoming environment for moms to nurse and pump. They receive a kit including breastfeeding information, staff education tips, policy language, and more. Julia Yoder, the Marketing and PR Director at Brookings Health System says the idea is to change the culture.
“The goal for the Breastfeeding Friendly Business Initiative is to make both breastfeeding in public a non-event for mothers, as well as pumping at work a non-event for mothers, so that they can provide the optimum nutrition for their child.”
HyVee is one business to take the pledge. The store has a mother’s room with a comfortable chair, changing table, and sink. Store Director Curt Osmanksi says breastfeeding benefits moms and babies, and creating a space like this is also good business sense.
“Whenever you can make your customers feel like they can come to your store any time and they don’t have to wait based on their schedule to feed their children, or if they have to pump, that makes it friendlier for that customer so they can come here any time,” Osmanksi says. “And the same thing from an employee standpoint, I think it’s important that they need to know that when they have their breaks or whenever they need to have to pump, they have a place to go.”
An official with the state Department of Health says there’s no timeline for when the initiative might spread to other cities, but any business in South Dakota can take the pledge.
For more information, or to take the pledge, click here.