The UC Davis Breastfeeding Support Group is a WorkLife Program Going Beyond the University
The Breastfeeding Support Program is one of the WorkLife programs that positions UC Davis as a desirable place from a model employer perspective. In addition to supporting the needs of UC Davis employees, Barbara Ashby and her team have made it a priority to take the Breastfeeding Support Program to the broader community, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and their partners and Davis-area residents.
Pictured, left to right: Lactation Consultant Lonna Hampton, interns Sarah Martin and Sarah Getachew, Dr. Barbara Ashby
Barbara Ashby notes that her program is not only helping the families at UCD, but it is helping higher education more generally by serving as a role model and setting standards for public service.
WorkLife balance and community support
This expansive program is among the first in higher education and has set the best practice standard for lactation support. The Breastfeeding Support Program was awarded an Innovative Excellence Award in 2002 from the Alliance for WorkLife Progress, which served as an affirmation of the program’s good work and also offered external verification to expand the program. For several years running, the Breastfeeding Support Program received the Mother-Baby Friendly Workplace Countywide Award from the Community Breastfeeding Coalition of Yolo County; and in 2005 Ashby’s team was honored with the state-wide award for supporting children and families (in the category of large employer) by the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace wellness. The program has also been incredibly innovative in consulting and mentoring other lactation support programs. Ashby’s team launched the first webinar on lactation accommodation for the College and University Work Family Association (CUWFA), which was received at institutions across higher education. Ashby notes that many schools have implemented the lactation site piece, but the Breastfeeding Support Program at UC Davis is still unique in having a dedicated lactation consultant, in addition to the other services.
California state policies
California state law requires “lactation accommodation for all California employees” in the 2002 CA labor code 1030-1033. This legislation clarifies that employees should receive break time, reasonable efforts, and accommodations in the form of lactation rooms. At Davis, Ashby’s team has always met and gone beyond those requirements. The UCD policy still speaks to the supportive lactation environment for employees, but has always considered the entire campus population. Ashby has also clarified what she expects in terms of “facilities,” and has ensured that the lactation rooms on campus are not only available, but are beautiful, clean, and a desirable place to new mothers.
The Breastfeeding Support Program has expanded the state requirement for lactation support to the idea of education support. An extensive effort was undertaken to get a formal policy on lactation accommodation added to the campus Policy and Procedures Manual. In order to ensure that the concept of education support was implemented, PPM 380-25 states that supervisors must discuss lactation options with their employees upon their return to work and supervisors must notify employees of their rights regarding lactation policy in the work place
As a result of the policy, Ashby’s team began to receive calls or visits from supervisors and faculty members with questions about how to best support their employees or students. In response, the Breastfeeding Support Program developed no-cost lactation support classes with a consistent message that not only informs lactating women about their rights, but also informs supervisors and faculty of the policy and expectations. Taught by lactation consultant Lonna Hampton, these classes provide a method of support and prepare mothers for breastfeeding before they take maternity leave. These preparations make the return to work/school much more successful.
The lactation support classes do more than teach the “rules” though; they provide a place for moms to get together and for Hampton to offer an educational topic and consultation. Sometimes Hampton only needs to facilitate the conversation among class members, who are composed of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and their partners. This unique piece of the Breastfeeding Support Program speaks to the campus Principles of Community. Ashby’s team wanted to be mindful not to exclude partners and fathers from the experience, and even the program participant does not need to be on-campus. Spouses and partners of faculty or staff can use the support group, the lactation room and pumps, and also rely on Hampton’s expertise.
In this way, the Breastfeeding Support Program is a WorkLife program that supports the entire family unit. They have broadened the embrace of the campus community by keeping its immediate members engaged and committed.