August 1-7 is New York State Breastfeeding Week

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 1, 2008) – The first week of August is "New York State Breastfeeding Week," in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week.

"In proclaiming Breastfeeding Week, we recognize the tremendous health benefits that breastfed infants enjoy and how important it is to increase the number of infants that are breastfed," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Breastfed infants are at reduced risk for asthma, obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses throughout their lifetimes. The evidence is clear that being breastfed is important to the lifelong health of infants, and we want to encourage new mothers to continue to breastfeed after they return to work."

Today, women with infants and children are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. labor force. Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work is one of the biggest challenges new mothers face. Many women stop nursing or expressing milk for their infants when they return to work because of a lack of privacy, inflexible schedules, and/or a non-supportive work environment.

Last year, the New York State legislature enacted The Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act to ensure that nursing mothers can return to the labor force. This law ensures that employers support women who want to continue expressing milk for their infants after returning to work. Workplace supports for nursing mothers also benefit employers by increasing employee retention and reducing employees' absences due to infant illnesses.

"Under the labor law, all nursing mothers in New York state have the right to express breast milk in the workplace, and it is the responsibility of every employer to make sure that their employees know their rights under the law," said state Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith. "This law is in place to make sure that nursing mothers have reasonable privacy and are treated in a respectful manner at their place of employment. I encourage anyone not being afforded these rights to contact the labor department at 1-800-447-3992 to speak to one of our investigators."

The state Department of Health is also working to ensure that new mothers are supported as they initiate breastfeeding after the birth of their children. Over the next five years, DOH will work with hospitals to increase the implementation of World Health Organization's "Baby Friendly" practices, which are associated with successful breastfeeding.

For more information on breastfeeding, please visit the department of Health website at www.nyhealth.gov or the department of Labor website at www.labor.state.ny.us.