By KALEY CONNER
Hays Area Children’s Center
When it comes to breastfeeding, Kansas Healthy Start has a simple message: It’s natural, and it’s perfect nutrition for infants.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve the health of Kansas families, Healthy Start Home Visitor Elaine Rupp has partnered with the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition in a new initiative involving local businesses.
The goal is to help businesses make new mothers feel more comfortable when they must nurse their babies in public. Participating businesses will be provided with window clings, table tents or wall cards that say “Breastfeeding welcome here.”
“There are many ways communities can support mothers and babies that breastfeed. Everyone plays a role,” Rupp said. “Many mothers may feel afraid to breastfeed or unsure of the response of others.”
Within these businesses, mothers will be welcome to breastfeed anywhere patrons normally are allowed to be. If a mother wishes for privacy, staff can help her find a suitable location.
In the Hays area, six local businesses have agreed to participate so far. The goal is to have a total of 21 businesses, though all are welcome to participate, Rupp said.
Businesses who welcome breastfeeding mothers find mothers tend to frequent places where they feel comfortable. Since an estimated 80 percent of new mothers in Kansas nurse their children, the initiative could prove good for business, Rupp said.
A state law enacted in 2006 gives mothers the right to breastfeed in any place they “have the right to be.” But an estimated one of six mothers still are so uncomfortable breastfeeding in public they choose to wean their babies before the age of 6 months, or not to nurse at all.
“Kansas rates for exclusive breastfeeding are low compared to other states,” Rupp said. “Every community can assist mothers in reaching their goal.”
Two factors that are significant include breastfeeding support from child care providers and professional support in the work place.
Hays Area Children’s Center is among the business participating in the initiative. A new, private breastfeeding room has been designated on the first floor for mothers who need a place to nurse their children.
A mother’s milk supply is a biological supply and demand system, and breastfeeding works best when mothers feed their children whenever they are hungry. Breastfeeding for long durations also is associated with lower risk for many acute and chronic diseases.
For more information about the initiative, or to sign up to participate, contact Rupp at Hays Area Children’s Center, (785) 625-3257.
Healthy Start provides education and support for pregnant women and families with infants and children through age 5. As a home visitor, Rupp focuses on comprehensive maternal health before, during and after birth. For more information, contact Hays Area Children’s Center.