February 6, 1998 in City

Breast-Feeding Bill Imperfect But Needed Jolt Of Reality Mostly Male-Oriented Workplaces Are Not Mom-Friendly.

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Breast-feeding working moms may be young and sleep-deprived. They may lack the energy, the drive or the clout to ask for simple workplace changes.

Their co-workers and managers, more attuned to the requirements of a traditionally male work force, may be oblivious to their needs.

Without a jolt or two of reality, no one may be spurred to change.

For these working mothers, the Washington state House of Representatives has provided that jolt. On Monday, it approved and sent to the Senate a bill launching a voluntary program for businesses. By providing flexible scheduling, a private, sanitary space and inexpensive facilities for breast-feeding mothers, businesses may receive a “baby-friendly” endorsement from the Department of Health. This is a fine idea.

The bill falters, however, by including a requirement that all businesses must provide a location, which can be a clean restroom, for expressing breast milk.

A public restroom, no matter how clean it may appear to be, is simply not a sanitary place for preparing a meal for a baby - or for anyone else, for that matter. Imagine toting a loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of Skippy’s into the public restroom in your workplace. Once you spread the peanut butter on the bread, where would you set your sandwich? On the counter, in the water splashed from the sink? On a toilet seat? On the floor?

These are the options for a woman who must juggle a breast pump and bottles in a public restroom. Think of warnings surrounding the region’s recent hepatitis threat, and imagine the germ soup a baby might drink.

Yes, working mothers who breast-feed need the advocacy of the Legislature. And so do businesses. Without truly “baby-friendly” workplace policies, many employers risk losing the talents and skills of these valuable employees.

A Kaiser Permanente study found that babies who are breast-fed for at least six months cost $1,435 less in health care claims than those who are bottle-fed. The babies suffer fewer ear and respiratory infections, less diarrhea and meningitis. That means fewer sick days and other absences for the mother, too.

Should the Legislature weigh in on this issue? Absolutely. Could this bill still use some fine-tuning? You betcha.

, DataTimes MEMO: See opposing view under headline: Badly crafted law fit only for stillbirth

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board’s dissenters

See opposing view under headline: Badly crafted law fit only for stillbirth

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board’s dissenters


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