— Life-sized cardboard cut-outs of breastfeeding women were placed around town Monday, as part of a breastfeeding awareness campaign.
The campaign seeks to encourage the acceptance of breastfeeding in public places, and specifically to inform employers of recently passed state legislation requiring them to give lactating mothers who are returning to work a private and clean space to express breast milk.
Kristin Dow, who works for the city Public Health Department’s Healthy Portland program, said Monday that the program is an important step in supporting working mothers in Maine.
This week, the cut-outs will be placed in several locations around town, including at the Farmer’s Market, First Friday Artwalk, Rosemont Bakery on Munjoy Hill and the Deering Oaks Kids Concert.
Lisa Belanger, of the city’s Family Health program, said research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial in several ways to babies and their mothers. She said breastfed babies develop fewer respiratory infections, have a reduced risk of allergies and less smelly stool than other babies. Mothers benefit from burning more calories, which allows them to loose weight faster after giving birth. She said mothers who breastfeed also have less risk of postpartum depression.
The president of the Council on International Educational Exchange, an Old Port organization that specializes in study- and work-abroad programs, said of all the things his company did when it moved into offices on Fore Street a couple years ago, the lactation room has been the most popular.
“Most of our employees have three months leave and return to work, and the question is, where are they going to go to pump,” Steve Trooboff said. “It can be really awkward.”
So, CIEE has a small, private room with comfortable chairs and a refrigerator, where employees can go to express milk during the work day.
Trooboff said the room is well-used, since a majority of his employees are woman in their 20s and 30s. He said there are usually four or five births a year.
“It works well because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
For more information on the city’s breastfeeding awareness campaign, go to portlandmaine.gov/hhs/breastfeeding.asp