Set State Agency Worksite Breastfeeding Policies

TMA Testimony by Jennifer Goetz, MD

House Committee on Business and Industry 
Testimony on House Bill 329 by Rep. Mary González

March 6, 2017

Chair Oliveira and members of the committee, on behalf of the more than 50,000 members of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society, I am pleased to be here today to speak in support of House Bill 329 by Rep. Mary González. My name is Dr. Jennifer Goetz and I’m a pediatrician. I practice neonatology and perinatal medicine here in Austin.    

We believe requiring state agencies to develop worksite breastfeeding policies will help identify and reduce the barriers to breastfeeding for working mothers. We applaud Rep. González’s effort to support working women. 

We believe breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits to the baby and mother. Making a decision on breastfeeding is one of the most important decisions a parent can make for their newborn and for their own health. Breast milk provides all the nutritional requirements that a newborn needs from their day of birth, through the earliest months of life. Pediatricians strongly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and also encourage breastfeeding as complementary nutrition until the infant is 12 months old or older. Breastfeeding not only provides essential nutrition for the baby’s development and protection against infections and diseases, it also supports early bonding between mother and baby — enabling each to grow closer as the mother is learning about the unique characteristics of her newborn. You are likely also aware of the many studies that show breastfeeding can provide both short and long term health benefits to the mother as well (for example, loss of pregnancy weight, and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease). And we also know that mothers who breastfeed are more likely to attend to their own health — adjusting their health habits such as monitoring what they eat and drink and their physical activity while breastfeeding. 

Before making a decision to breastfeed their newborn, a state employee returning to work after giving birth must determine whether her worksite will allow her to use a breast pump privately at work so she can continue to provide breast milk to her newborn. This is a decision that is usually made during pregnancy. HB 329 will help in this important decision-making process because it not only requires a state agency to have policy on breastfeeding, it also will ensure information on breastfeeding resources at the worksite is accessible on the agency’s website. 

Designating the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to be responsible for reviewing and approving the proposed agency policies is an important part of HB 329. DSHS has many years of experience in working with diverse business worksites across the state to support the development and recognition of mother-friendly programs. The agency will be an invaluable resource to state agencies when developing their mother-friendly policies and in helping agencies that need support for compliance with this legislation. Posting the DSHS registry on the state’s mother-friendly worksites would allow a job-seeking parent of a newborn to readily access information on whether a worksite is a potentially good work environment for them. 

The workplace is a critical setting to offer support and protection for mothers so they can continue to breastfeed for longer periods. We know more and more Texas women are breastfeeding and for longer periods — but we can do better. We lag behind most other states in both initiating breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. But as most women are participating in the Texas workforce, it is critically important to focus our efforts in having public policies that will help employers allow mothers to extend the breastfeeding period for more newborns and infants. This is a positive step not only for babies and their mothers, but for the workplace as well.   

As a pediatrician, I know we play a special role in informing and helping parents address their concerns and issues with extended breastfeeding. We know this legislation will enable more state employees with infants to go to work in an environment where they know they are supported as new parents. TMA urges your support for HB 329, and we pledge our assistance in implementation of this important public health policy in the future.

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Last Updated On

March 06, 2017

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