Just 21 years after the California State Assembly approved a resolution (ACR 155) that calls on “the State of California and California employers to support and encourage the practice of breastfeeding,” the Orange County Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to develop a county lactation policy.
“The County of Orange recognizes that breast milk is the optimal food for the growth and development of infants, as such, the County enterprise supports an environment for working women who breastfeed by empowering women to continue to breastfeed after returning to work,” states an agenda staff report for the Oct. 8 item. “[T]he County of Orange aspires to be a workplace of choice for all people and to serve all residents with respect.”
The item, which was submitted by First District Supervisor Andrew Do, includes three recommended actions: Ask the county CEO’s office to develop a lactation policy, identify and publish a list of all lactation rooms in Orange County that are available to county employees and the general public and identify county facilities that need dedicated lactation rooms.
Though the staff report referred to to the 1998 resolution from the Assembly, and a 2002 law that states employers in California “shall make reasonable efforts to provide an employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a bathroom, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private,” the reason for the OC Board’s sudden interest in ensuring proper lactation facilities is a recent vote by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
“On Tuesday, August 7, 2019, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a proposal from Supervisor Kristin Gaspar to instruct their staff to create a list of lactation rooms at county facilities throughout the region, so working mothers know their options,” states the County of Orange staff report. The SD County Board also voted to develop a county lactation policy and identify a space in the County Administration Center “so mothers doing business at the county have somewhere to go to breastfeed,” states the report.
The County of Orange report notes the considerable positive health effects breast milk provides infants:
Breastfeeding significantly reduces infant risks for infections, asthma or allergies compared to infants who are formula fed, resulting in few hospitalizations and trips to the doctor. Evidence also demonstrates that breastfeeding reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes later in life and can reduce the risk of childhood obesity. These benefits increase greatly when a mother exclusively feeds for the first six months of life.
The report also notes that as counties go in California, Orange County has been more than tardy in addressing lactation, though a New Nursing Mother’s Lounge was recently added to John Wayne Airport. That lounge includes comfortable seating, running water and electrical outlets, which the report notes makes for a more “pleasant experience compared to a bathroom stall.”
“A January 2019 report shows Orange County is ranked 34th in the state [out of 58 counties!] for exclusive breastfeeding, at a rate of 66.1%,” states the staff report. “Across Orange County, exclusive breastfeeding varies substantially–from 20.3% of mothers at Garden Grove hospital to 85.7% for mothers at Kaiser-Irvine Hospital. While a mother’s choice should be respected, workplace conditions should not inhibit a mother from feeding breastmilk to her infant.”
If the OC Board approves Supervisor Do’s item, the county CEO’s office will have 90 days to carry it out.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting starts at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Click here to watch it online.
UPDATE: The OC Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to develop the lactation policy described above.
“Orange County is committed to providing working moms with a safe and comfortable space to breastfeed,” said Supervisor Andrew Do in a news release sent out immediately after the vote. “Every mom should decide what’s best for their children, and that decision shouldn’t be limited by a lack of access to safe places to breastfeed.”
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.