Minister Recognises World Breastfeeding Week

August 8, 2013

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, Minister of Health and Seniors, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin on Wednesday [Aug 7] recognized eight Bermudian employers for being family-friendly and supportive of working women choosing to breastfeed their babies.

This year’s campaign was designed to encourage more local companies to support staff members who are nursing newborns.

Hundreds of breastfeeding women were asked by La Leche League of Bermuda [LLL] to submit the names of employers who accommodated their needs and made their transition back to work easier.

The following companies were nominated: ACE, Bermuda Hospitals Board [BHB], Bersalon, Capital G, T.N. Tatem Middle School, Renaissance Reinsurance, the Royal Gazette and the XL Group.

WORLD BREASTFEEDING AWARENESS PHOTO

A spokesperson said “The Ministry of Health and LLL have been working together for several years to increase breastfeeding rates in our community, which remain low.

“The World Health Organization [WHO] and healthcare professionals in Bermuda recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for at least a year and longer.

“A study conducted by the Bermuda Breastfeeding Promotion Committee in 2007 indicated less than 1% of women in our community are able to achieve this level of breastfeeding success”.

Minister Gordon-Pamplin said: “We know breastfeeding protects babies from illness and lowers cancer risks for mothers. We also know children and adults who were breastfed according to WHO guidelines experience decreased rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and hypertension.

“Breastfeeding reduces healthcare costs for communities and provides financial savings for parents and employers.

“Yet many women face challenges when it comes to balancing the needs of their newborns with the demands of their employment. When workplace environments provide support, the result is not only higher rates of breastfeeding and a healthier Bermuda, but reduced employee absenteeism, greater staff productivity, increased company loyalty, higher staff morale, improved employee retention and lower healthcare costs.”

Dr. Virloy Lewin, Health Promotion Coordinator for the Department of Health said: “One of the goals of the Well Bermuda Strategy is promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, which will provide babies with optimal nutrition and health protection.

“We encourage all Well Bermuda Partners and Bermudian employers to support breastfeeding mothers when they return to work.”

Melony Kendell, Accredited La Leche League Leader and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, said: “Sadly, many women may quit breastfeeding or choose to wean early because they have to return to work. We encourage women and employers to work together to find time for mothers to express breast milk during their shift and to arrange a small private space for this purpose.

“In addition, part-time employment opportunities, longer maternity leaves and greater access to onsite or nearby childcare make a big difference toward companies becoming family-friendly employers of choice.

“Studies indicate employers who are supportive benefit as well because staff members take fewer days off to care for sick babies, healthcare costs are decreased and insurance premiums are reduced.

“As a community, we all benefit when women are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for six months. Establishing island-wide education campaigns and providing healthcare workers with appropriate training will serve to improve breastfeeding rates and the health of our community.”

Christine Lloyd-Jennings, BHB Chief of Human Resources said: “As one of the largest employers of women in Bermuda and an organization committed to health and wellness, BHB recognizes the benefit of supporting staff members who choose to breastfeed.

“We offer staff members a quiet, private room equipped with a small fridge, where they express milk. Our managers and supervisors coordinate with employees, when possible, to allow for brief pumping breaks.

“We understand the importance of working with staff members returning to work after delivering a baby in order that their needs and the demands of their employment can both be met.”

Nazma Amirali, Bersalon employee said: “Bersalon President Sue Ternent allowed me to take an extra month of unpaid maternity leave, which was a big help. I was able to ease back to work with half days for a few weeks, extending my time as my baby and I adjusted to our lives.

“Coming back to work and facing the challenges of being a new mom can be overwhelming. I was fortunate to have the support of my employer who allowed me to book in short breaks and to use private areas where I could pump.

“It has been a blessing and made a big difference to our lives. I was happy to come to work knowing that I could still provide for my baby. With workplace support, women are happier and more productive.”

Francine McMahon, from T.N. Tatem Middle School said: “I supported my employee because I believe in developing positive relationships in the workplace and supporting staff and their families is one way to accomplish this. Family should come first.

“Also, looking at the health benefits for the child, I could never deny a parent or child that opportunity. A healthy child also means a less frequently absent parent: therefore the place of employment benefits.

Kevin O’Donnell, President and CEO, RenaissanceRe: RenaissanceRe is pleased to be recognized as a family-friendly employer. We support the choices our employees make to balance the needs of their families with the demands of being busy professionals, including those of mothers returning to work after maternity leave. RenaissanceRe has created a work environment that encourages healthy living and understands the importance of family. We are proud our employees are happier and more productive at work because of these efforts.

Vanessa Robinson, XL’s Human Resources Manager in Bermuda said: We pride ourselves on being a family friendly employer. Our people are our greatest resource and with women representing 62% of XL’s Bermuda-based employees, we strive to help them maintain a healthy work/life balance.

“Our lactation room not only provides mothers with a safe, clean and private area to express and store their milk, it also helps them to transition back into the workplace after maternity leave.

Ian Truran, President & CEO, Capital G Bank Limited said: We understand the importance of parents having the ability to balance the joy of parenthood with the demands of a professional career.

“It is our hope that mothers and babies are able to continue to bond naturally after maternity leave has concluded, and when mothers wish to continue breastfeeding, we facilitate the ability to express breast milk during working hours.

“Capital G is committed to supporting parents where possible as they navigate the parenthood journey in parallel with accomplishing their career goals and aspirations”.

The spokesperson said, “Employers wishing to support breastfeeding in the workplace may wish to introduce corporate policies outlining breastfeeding support and identify these policies in employee benefit packets.

“Suggested steps for workplace support of breastfeeding include teaching employees about breastfeeding; providing designated private space for expressing milk; allowing flexible scheduling to support milk expression during work; giving mothers options for returning to work, such as teleworking, part-time work and extended maternity leave; providing on-site or near-site child care; providing high-quality breast pumps; and offering professional lactation management services and support.

“Breastfeeding support identifies a socially responsible organization that cares for the health and well being of children, mothers, families and the community. It also directly benefits employers in the following areas:

  • Employee attraction and retention: Women make up a large portion of Bermuda’s workforce and approximately half of those are of childbearing age. As more women choose to breastfeed, they are looking for workplaces that support their decision.
  • Financial benefits to employers: Breastfeeding support programmes implemented in workplaces in the USA report a $3 return on investment for each $1 spent, according to the United States Breastfeeding Committee.
  • Lower healthcare costs: Breastfeeding carries proven short and long-term health benefits for both mothers and babies. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, asthma, and pneumonia. Studies in the USA have estimated $400 savings on healthcare costs during the first year of life of a breastfed baby. Medical prescription costs alone are cut by 50%.
  • Improved workplace satisfaction: Higher morale and improved productivity are found among breastfeeding mothers.
  • Less absenteeism: Studies in the USA have shown that breastfeeding mothers have lower rates of absenteeism from work compared to formula feeding mothers.

The Minister’s full remarks follow below:

Good morning, I am pleased to be joined by all of you to highlight this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, and to recognize some individuals in our community who have supported breastfeeding mothers and babies through their “Family-friendly” workplace policies.

I welcome representatives from the Department of Health, Well Bermuda and La Leche League, as well as employers, mothers, babies and members of the press. Thank you all for collaborating on this observance of World Breastfeeding Week.

One of the highest priorities of the Ministry of Health and Seniors is to ensure that the citizens of Bermuda have the information they need to lead healthy lives.

Sharing information on the multitude of benefits of breastfeeding is one way we do this. Protecting and supporting a mother’s right to breastfeed her newborn infant is another.

Today is a wonderful opportunity to recognize and congratulate some of those in the community who assist us in this cause by supporting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. We designate these special workplaces, “Family Friendly” because their policies and workplace culture increase the chances for breastfeeding success and therefore improve the health and wellbeing of babies and families.

We know that breastfeeding protects babies from illness and lowers cancer risks for mothers. We also know children and adults who were breastfed according to WHO guidelines experience decreased rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and hypertension.

Breastfeeding reduces healthcare costs for communities and provides financial savings for parents and employers.
Yet many women face challenges when it comes to balancing the needs of their newborns with the demands at work.

When the workplace environment provides support, the result is not only higher rates of breastfeeding and a healthier Bermuda, but reduced employee absenteeism, greater work productivity, increased company loyalty, higher staff morale, improved employee retention and lower healthcare costs. These improvements positively impact our economic wellbeing as a nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and healthcare professionals in Bermuda recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for at least a year – and longer if possible. A study conducted by the Bermuda Breastfeeding Promotion Committee in 2007 indicated that less than 1% of women in our community are able to achieve this level of breastfeeding success.

One of the reasons women in our community may choose not to breastfeed or may wean early is because of concerns they face when it comes to balancing the needs of their newborns with the demands of their employment.
The Ministry of Health and Seniors recognizes the critical importance of workplace environments that support an employed woman’s choice to provide her baby with the healthiest beginning by breastfeeding.

I am pleased, therefore, to be here today to recognize eight local companies who have been identified by their own staff members as being family-friendly and supportive of working women who breastfeed.

These companies will receive certificates in a few minutes, after the other speakers have said a few words, acknowledging their efforts to make it easier for employees to transition back to work after having babies.

This Ministry hopes the example set by these employers will inspire other companies in our community to support breastfeeding women who work.

It does not take much to create a nursing-friendly workplace – a small, private space for expressing milk and short breaks during a staff member’s shift go a long way toward providing the necessary support.

I am happy to recognize the following employers today for making these efforts:

  • Ace,
  • Bermuda Hospitals Board,
  • Bersalon,
  • Capital G,
  • T. N. Tatem Middle School,
  • Renaissance Reinsurance,
  • the Royal Gazette and
  • the XL Group.

Breastfeeding provides health benefits that last a lifetime and lowers the risk of many major chronic diseases affecting our community. I thank every employer in Bermuda for their efforts to support working mothers who choose to breastfeed.

Thank You.

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