Breastfeeding support program puts Penn State Abington ahead of game

On Jan. 20, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released the “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.” The goal of the report is to call on health care providers, employers, insurers, policymakers, researchers and the community at large to take concrete action steps to support mothers in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.

While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. “I believe that we as a nation are beginning to see a shift in how we think and talk about breastfeeding,” said Benjamin. “With this ‘Call to Action,’ I am urging everyone to help make breastfeeding easier.” In the report, she adds, “Identifying the support systems that are needed to help mothers meet their personal breastfeeding goals will allow them to stop feeling guilty and alone when problems with breastfeeding arise.”

Penn State Abington didn’t need the report to go into action, as the suburban Philadelphia campus already has a breastfeeding support program in place. According to Donna Monk, campus health services nurse, Penn State Abington has taken steps to support faculty, staff and students who want to continue to provide breast milk to their children even after returning to work or school at Penn State.

“The Moms Only Breastfeeding Support Program was an initiative that grew out of the Abington Commission for Women (CFW), a committee dedicated to promoting a strong work-family balance at Penn State Abington,” said Monk. “Dr. Karen Weekes (division head of Arts and Humanities) was the co-chair of the CFW when we decided to make establishing a lactation room a priority. She investigated the process at University Park and received much support and guidance from Dr. Cynthia Bartok, the breastfeeding program director on that campus; Dr. Sandler, who gave her full support, found space to house this service; Dale Hollenbach (COO) was instrumental in organizing the reconstruction of the room, and Christina Szymanski (business manager) and I handled the organization, details, purchasing of furniture and decorating of the new space.”

The Moms Only Room was completed in the spring of 2010 and according to Monk both students and faculty are now using it. The Moms Only Room is located in Sutherland building and has a combination lock that allows access to this private room. A small refrigerator is available should moms wish to store their milk during the day. The room contains a comfortable recliner, a bulletin board with lactation resources, and a lending library of nursing mother's books. The space is clean, cheerful, intimate and very comfortable.

“Prior to this resource, breastfeeding mothers had no designated space to pump their milk,” said Monk. “They would use bathrooms or their offices which were inappropriate spaces for this intimate activity. The Commission for Women's commitment to this project and Dr. Sandler's support has brought a valuable resource to our campus. Students and employees now have a designated, private space that affords them the opportunity to pump and store their breast milk. It is a privilege to support our breastfeeding mothers so they may continue to nurse their babies while working or attending class.”

For more information on Penn State Abington’s Moms Only Breastfeeding Support Program, contact health services in 103 Lares or e-mail Donna Monk at [email protected].