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Making schools healthy places can benefit the babies of teachers and students. Nearly 6,000 teenaged girls give birth in Washington each year, according to state birth tables. An estimated 3,900 teachers have babies as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for the first six months, and the US Surgeon General recommends that employers provide high quality lactation support (see article). However, few schools have moved to allow on-site breastfeeding or provide lactation rooms for women to express and store milk for their babies.
Jill Lewis, the Program Manager of Student Health Services for Seattle Schools, notes that school administrative offices have a designated lactation room, but it can be difficult for classroom teachers to get the time they need to express breast milk outside of their lunch hour or planning periods. “Teachers that are nursing moms can usually find space in the school for pumping, but the timing is the issue. Students can get time out of class more easily than teachers.”
The School Nurses Association of Washington does not have an official position on breastfeeding accommodations in school settings, but their president, Lynnette Ondeck, acknowledges that many school nurses assist nursing mothers in schools. Ondeck says, “As a nurse, this is something I feel to be very important.” She serves as district nurse for the Nooksack Valley School District, where a wing of the high school is a certified child care center. Ondeck splits her time between nursing duties in schools and in the child care center.
Locating day care centers in or near schools is necessary for some teen parents to keep up their school attendance and graduate. Some schools also use curricula for pregnant and parenting teens that include lactation support. One such program, the GRADS (Graduation, Reality, and Dual-Role Skills) program, is currently offered in 17 school districts across the state. Next month WithinReach will launch a new website, WashingTeenHelp.org. The website will support pregnant and parenting teens across the state by connecting them to state health and food benefit programs, local community services, and relevant health information.
Featured: June 2012
Breastfeeding mothers who are teachers or students, school health leaders