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Health & Parenting

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A Woman's Work Is Never Done

Breastfeeding moms get help from an unusual source.

A Place to Pump

In addition to a supportive environment, says Cohen, the company needs to designate a comfortable, clean, private space for an employee to express breast milk. "Bathrooms are not acceptable places," she says.

Peg Rosen, an editor based in New Jersey, whose twice-a-day pumpings enabled her to breastfeed her son for a year, says: "You need a relaxing environment where you can let down your milk supply. And you're banished to a cold, tiled room where people are defecating. It's the most offensive thing I can think of."

Like a few other companies, CIGNA, based in Philadelphia, is taking this issue seriously -- outfitting all of its 200 sites nationwide with lactation rooms. In addition to getting privacy to pump, a woman who joins the company's free lactation program receives the necessary equipment and the phone services of a lactation consultant. Trained in all aspects of lactation management, the consultants are available to talk to a woman before her baby is born, during her hospital stay, and for additional consults as often as necessary. Mothers with questions about difficulties, including sore nipples, infections, or worries about whether the baby is getting enough breast milk, receive the support they need in order to continue breastfeeding.

Support Reaps Benefits

Thanks to CIGNA's efforts, where the lactation program has been in place since 1995, breastfeeding duration rates of their employees far exceed the norm: 72% are breastfeeding six months after the baby's birth and 36% continue to breastfeed at one year.

And payoffs aren't just measured in time spent breastfeeding, but in real dollars and cents. Employees are happier and more motivated, which translates into substantial savings to the company through less absenteeism and reduced medical costs, thanks to healthier babies. Victoria Dickson, director of Working Well, the corporate health program at CIGNA, says the lactation program saves the company $400 per year for each employee who participates.

First-rate lactation programs also exist at companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). The DWP has made breastfeeding a family issue by making wives of employees eligible for a lactation program that Cohen dubs the best in the country.

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