State health officials are on a renewed push to encourage mothers across the state to breastfeed their babies and they’re also encouraging workplaces to accommodate those mothers.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), along with a number of community partners, has released a new version of the “NC Making It Work Toolkit” – which offers advice to moms and to employers on ways they can support breastfeeding.

According to state stats, more than 80 percent of women choose to breastfeed, which state health officials consider the healthiest option.  The new Making It Work Toolkit provides “clear steps and solutions to business owners, managers and families for supporting breastfeeding mothers at work.  It has advice for mothers, employees and family members.”

Mark Benton, the state’s assistant secretary for public health, said the benefits are widespread.

“Research shows breastfeeding is good for not only the family, but for employers and communities as a whole,” he stated in a Monday, March 15 press release.

State officials also point out that the law requires employers to make some accommodations. The Affordable Care Act, for instance, requires employers to provide hourly employees a reasonable break time for this purpose up to one year after birth, and the employer also must provide “a private place that is not a bathroom that is shielded from view and free of intrusion from co-workers and the public.*

In North Carolina, the NC Office of State Human Resources Lactation Policy for state employees reads, “It is the policy of North Carolina State Government to assist working mothers with the transition back to work following the birth of a child by providing lactation support.  A lactation support program allows a nursing mother to express breast milk periodically during the work day.”

State health officials argue that employers also benefit by supporting breastfeeding moms through “lower health care costs, less absenteeism, less turnover, improved productivity and greater employee loyalty.”

The Monday press release adds that “Breastfeed infants, in turn, have fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, and digestive problems and are less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), less likely to develop cancer or diabetes in their lifetime and less likely to be obese later in life.”

The new toolkit offers advice, checklists, resources and other tools for new moms and employers, and it also presents “creative solutions for providing a private place for nursing mothers to breast feed at work.”

In addition, it addresses special situations such as when moms are school teachers.