ATLANTIC CITY - Working mothers are not well-informed about the laws to aid them with their choice to breast-feed their children while balancing life at the office, said organizers of an event at City Hall to mark National Breastfeeding Month.
The topic of breast-feeding had long been a taboo one, especially for those women in the work force trying to balance life at the office and at home, often resorting to formula milk or weaning the baby too soon, said Sarah Chaikin, of Brigantine, a lactation consultant for the Atlantic City Women, Infants and Children Program, or WIC.
The idea of outreach programs and peer consultants has been around for years, but there hasn't been a lot of exposure for the programs, Chaikin said.
August was recognized as National Breastfeeding Month in 2011. Soon after, regulations from the Department of Labor helped working women with the option of breast-feeding, Chaikin said. These included breast pumps being tax deductible and obtainable through health insurance, as well as a requirement for companies to provide clean environments for women to use breast pumps.
"Women have the right to pump at work. They have a right to a break time and privacy in a clean location. It has to be sanitary, not a bathroom," Chaikin said.
Phuc Tran, of Pleasantville, attended Thursday's WIC event in Atlantic City. She learned about the outreach programs by information she read during visits with doctors at the hospital and medical centers in the region, she said.
Now a mother to an 8-month-old daughter, as well as a nail technician, Tran said she worried that inhaling fumes all day would affect her breast milk.
She said she has had all her questions answered and is able to care for her child because of information from the WIC program.
Cultural differences can be a factor into women's knowledge of breast-feeding, said Peggy Smith, of Ocean City, a registered nurse and an expert who helps with the program.
Women who are born outside of the country tend to be more successful in breast-feeding without much help from the group, Smith said.
The idea of breast-feeding was a natural one that was passed down through generations of women - until the chain was broken in the 1950s and 1960s, Chaikin said. "We didn't have our moms to refer back to, because it was so strongly discouraged."
Smith said the reason was because, for 20 years after formula was introduced, mothers could leave someone else in charge of feeding their infant, but the "swinging '70s" brought back the idea of health benefits.
"But we don't want people to feel guilty if they choose not to breast feed. It's their choice," Smith said.
The most important conversation is highlighting the regulations that help women in the workplace who choose to breast-feed, Smith said.
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