Health Department Recognizes Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces in Brooklyn, Launches Breastfeeding Toolkit and Baby Cafes

Ten local businesses and partners provide a welcoming space for women and employees who are breastfeeding or pumping

Toolkit for small businesses includes sample family-friendly employee policies, a handout on New York breastfeeding laws, and a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” decal

Three new Baby Cafés will open at the Neighborhood Health Action Centers, in communities with the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the city

August 23, 2018 — In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity today recognized ten local businesses and partners in Brooklyn with breastfeeding-friendly spaces and launched a breastfeeding toolkit for small businesses. The breastfeeding toolkit will be distributed to local business owners in neighborhoods with the lowest rates of breastfeeding. It has a variety of materials, including sample policies for owners to support pregnant and breastfeeding employees; a handout on the New York City breastfeeding law; and a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” pledge and decal. The Health Department also announced the opening of three new Baby Cafés, created by Baby Café USA, at the Neighborhood Health Action Centers. The Baby Cafés, located in Brownsville, East Harlem and the Bronx, provide spaces for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to meet other parents and learn from lactation consultants on staff. The Baby Cafés are funded by New York State Department of Health.

The New York City Civil Rights Law gives women the right to breastfeed in public at any time. The new breastfeeding toolkit and Baby Cafés are part of the de Blasio administration’s effort to promote and support breastfeeding. Mayor de Blasio signed legislation two years ago to establish lactation rooms in select locations where social services are offered, and the Health Department opened “lactation pods” citywide to provide clean, comfortable spaces for breastfeeding and pumping. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in partnership with New York City Health + Hospitals, also distributes cards to every parent in Brooklyn when their baby is born; the cards include information and resources on breastfeeding.

“The health benefits of breastfeeding are backed by decades of science. Breast milk strengthens the baby’s immune system, supports brain development and prevents infections. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and diabetes,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “It is critical for women — especially women of color in low-income communities — to feel supported in reaching their breastfeeding goals, and local businesses and partners should be included in the effort. The new breastfeeding toolkit and Baby Cafés provide the Health Department new ways to protect and promote breastfeeding.”

“As a pediatrician, I know from years of clinical practice about the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers,” said First Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Unfortunately, there are many barriers which cause far too many women to discontinue breastfeeding after just two months. With the new breastfeeding toolkit and Baby Cafés, the Health Department can expand our efforts to protect every woman’s right to breastfeed.”

At an event at the Brooklyn Public Library today, the Health Department recognized ten breastfeeding-friendly spaces in Brooklyn. These small businesses and partners provide welcoming spaces for breastfeeding and pumping:

  • 3 Black Cats (3 Belmont Avenue)
  • The Office of Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley (55 Hanson Place)
  • Bed-Stuy Provisions (563 Gates Avenue)
  • Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street)
  • Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza)
  • The Office of Council Member Laurie Cumbo (55 Hanson Place, Suite 778)
  • The Office of Council Member Robert Cornegy (1360 Fulton Street, Suite 500)
  • Life Wellness Center (376 Tompkins Avenue)
  • Manna’s Soul Food Restaurant (478 Rockaway Avenue)
  • Sincerely Tommy (348 Tompkins Avenue)

“Mothers disproportionally face discrimination and harassment in the workplace, housing, and public spaces for simply being mothers. This is unacceptable,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Carmelyn P. Malalis. “We are proud to partner with the Health Department to provide resources that inform mothers of their rights. The NYC Commission on Human Rights will continue educating the public and enforcing the law to ensure mothers can breastfeed and express breast milk free from discrimination and are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of our New York City neighborhoods and should be equipped to serve all members of their communities,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The City’s breastfeeding toolkit will help to ensure that small businesses have the information and resources they need to create a welcoming environment for employees and customers.”

“With over 10,000 programs for babies and toddlers last year, our youngest patrons are among our most active,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “The Library’s doors will always be open to mothers and families in every stage of parenthood.”

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the love between a mother and her child, and that’s why I’m proud to have created a lactation room at Brooklyn Borough Hall, which served as a catalyst for our legislation to advance breastfeeding-friendly facilities in public buildings across our city,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “It is critical that we continue to support Brooklyn’s mothers and their families by providing comfortable and safe spaces to breastfeed in public and places of business, and the expansion of this initiative through the new breastfeeding toolkit and Baby Cafés is a great step in that direction. We must continue to expand these kinds of facilities so that the next generation is brought up with the nourishment that they need to thrive.”

“Far too many mothers are still without adequate information and support regarding their rights and what resources are available to them, should they choose to breastfeed,” said New York City Council Majority Leader, Laurie A. Cumbo. “I applaud the Health Department for their critical efforts in launching a breastfeeding toolkit and highlighting breastfeeding-friendly spaces. I am proud to have made breastfeeding and lactation rights a focal point of my time in office, with legislation advancing greater education and access for those who need to express milk in public or in the workplace. I remain committed to seeing through these efforts and ensuring that our laws, culture, and physical structures reflect our values of equity and inclusion.”

“Breastfeeding provides so many benefits for both mother and baby — it is long overdue that we end the stigma around public breastfeeding once and for all,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “As Chair of the Committee on Women, I have been proud to back legislation that supports breastfeeding mothers across New York City. I am grateful to the Department of Health, local businesses, advocates and other partners who are working so hard to ensure that women’s rights to breastfeed are encouraged and respected.”

Women with children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Nearly 55 percent of women with children under the age of 3 are employed, and a majority of these women will choose to breastfeed their babies, providing them with important nutrition and health benefits. Family-friendly policies and programs that provide lactation support to employees and their partners help protect a company’s investment in staff and its bottom line.

Companies that are successful at retaining employees after childbirth have worksite lactation support and dedicated spaces (as small as 4 feet by 5 feet) for employees to express breast milk in private. Companies with lactation support policies are able to retain experienced employees, see a reduction in sick time taken by parents for children’s illnesses, and receive fewer health care and insurance claims.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods until at least one year of age.

Health Department data on breastfeeding trends in New York City show that babies born to women of color and from high-poverty neighborhoods are less likely to exclusively breastfeed during the first five days after giving birth. In 2015, Latina mothers had the lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the hospital compared to other racial and ethnic groups, at 29.4 percent. Black mothers had the second lowest rate at 30.9 percent, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander women at 32.1 percent. In contrast, 47.5 percent of White mothers exclusively breastfed while in the hospital. The persistent gap in breastfeeding rates between White mothers and mothers of other races and ethnicities indicates that mothers of color are more likely to face structural barriers to continued breastfeeding, including hospital policies and practices, marketing of infant formula, social norms, returning to work early and unsupportive work environments, as well as racism, classism and discrimination.

Other Health Department breastfeeding and baby-friendly initiatives include:

  • Community Lactation Room Law. In August 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation introduced by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. and at the behest of Brooklyn Borough President Eric. L. Adams, requiring the Administration for Children’s Services, New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to establish lactation rooms in select locations where social services are offered to the public. As of today, there are almost 30 locations open, with more planned in the future. Locations are listed on the Health Department’s website. The Health Department also created a poster available for download identifying community lactation rooms.
  • Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ). Since 2013, the BFEZ has increased the number of breastfeeding spaces in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville to 141 establishments, including grocery stores, hair salons, libraries, restaurants, child care centers, and laundromats. BFEZ has trained over 220 neighborhood residents and providers as doulas, certified lactation counselors and male peer educators. Members of the “empowerment zone” mobilize and educate local policymakers on the challenges faced by women, particularly women of color, when breastfeeding in public. BFEZ is an initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
  • Creating Breastfeeding Friendly Communities, funded by the New York State Department of Health, Creating Breastfeeding Friendly Communities is a coordinated, multi-sector initiative designed to build/expand community-based breastfeeding partnerships and advance broad-based policy, system, and environmental changes on breastfeeding protection, promotion, support, and care management within community settings and businesses and with child care and health care providers. The initiative also seeks to reduce the racial/ethnic and community disparities in the prevalence of breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding in New York State.
  • Newborn Home Visiting Program, Nurse-Family Partnership, and community-based initiatives at the Family Wellness Suites in the Neighborhood Health Action Centers.
  • Feeding Our Future: Breastfeeding Realities Among North and Central Brooklyn Women and Their Babies (PDF). A neighborhood report from the Center for Health Equity shows that most women in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville want to breastfeed but do not feel socially accepted in public spaces. The report offers recommendations for creating a more supportive environment across the city for moms who choose to breastfeed.
  • The “Improving Health Equity and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes Collaborative” project, which brings together 22 agencies across New York City to address disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.
  • The Mobile Milk text messaging campaign which provides breastfeeding education and referral information to subscribers in English and Spanish. Text messages are delivered between 28 weeks of pregnancy and 4 months after giving birth.
  • Partnerships with maternity hospitals, birthing centers and community-based agencies throughout the city to raise awareness about breastfeeding.
  • Certified Lactation Counselor training for hospital staff and community partners to increase the skilled support available to breastfeeding families.

Through the Latch On NYC initiative, the Health Department works with hospitals to reduce formula supplementation in healthy breastfed babies during the hospital stay, unless medically indicated, and discontinue distribution of promotional or free infant formula that can interfere with a parent’s choice to breastfeed. Currently, six hospitals participate in the initiative. The Health Department also facilitates the New York City Breastfeeding Hospital Collaborative. The goal of this Collaborative is to increase the number of Baby-Friendly Designated facilities in New York City. Through this initiative the agency is working with 30 maternity facilities. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for lactation based on the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals. Currently, there are 15 Baby-Friendly Hospitals in New York City.



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