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DOH-Pasco Pilots "Baby on Board" Program for Breastfeeding Employees

By Melissa Watts

August 14, 2018

Pasco County, Fla. —  The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County (DOH-Pasco) is piloting a new program, Baby on Board, which allows exclusively breastfeeding mothers to bring their babies to work with them until the baby is 6 months old. The program was introduced in January 2018, just six months after DOH-Pasco received a Gold Level Florida Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Award in June 2017. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition presents this award to recognize organizations that provide support in the workplace to their breastfeeding employees.

More recently, DOH-Pasco was awarded the 2018 Gold Level Loving Support Award of Excellence for providing exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities. The purpose of this award is to provide models for local agencies and ultimately increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants. The Baby on Board program is a prime example of the many steps DOH-Pasco has taken to become a benchmark for breastfeeding in the community.

“We’re providing an environment that welcomes new moms back to work with their breastfeeding babies,” said Pasco County Health Officer Mike Napier. “They can return to work sooner and still give their babies the best chance at a healthy start. The surprising result has been co-worker support and increased morale across all departments.”

Rachel Romero, the second DOH-Pasco employee to participate in the Baby on Board program, had this to say:

Participating in the Baby on Board program was a life-changing experience. It was so amazing to have the opportunity to bond with my baby and provide for my family while doing a job I love at the same time. Because of the Baby on Board program, I came back to work after six weeks rather than the six months I had originally planned to be out. I loved being able to get my job done with my sleeping baby wrapped to my chest or nursing. So many clients loved seeing the baby! I’m very proud to work for an organization that truly cares about healthier moms and babies and strives to be a role model in the community.

The third and fourth Baby on Board participants are currently bringing their babies with them to work, and both the previous and current participants are available to provide support and assistance to each other, as well as those considering the program.

DOH-Pasco employee, Vanessa Wood was able to go back to work four weeks earlier than she planned and said, “Bringing my baby to work has had a profound impact on the staff and soon-to-be mothers that I see in the WIC clinic each day. Staff have embraced my ‘little guy’ and support my decision to breastfeed. Knowing I can provide the best nutrition to my baby, continue to do my job, and provide hope and support to working mothers is an honor.”

Janet Ortiz also participated in Baby on Board at DOH-Pasco and said, “Being able to bring my baby to work with me has been such a blessing. I’m so fortunate to have been able to bond with my baby for the first 6 months of his life.”  

The Baby on Board program complies with the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding from 2011, which encourages the following from employers:

  • Work toward establishing paid maternity leave for all employed mothers.
  • Ensure that employers establish and maintain comprehensive, high-quality lactation support programs for their employees.
  • Expand the use of programs in the workplace that allow lactating mothers to have direct access to their babies.

According to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, “Employed women have been less likely to initiate breastfeeding, and they tend to breastfeed for a shorter length of time than women who are not employed. Most employed mothers who are lactating have to pump milk at work for their children and need to be provided with accommodations to do so.”

An internal survey revealed that the Baby on Board program is supported by 97. 2 percent of the DOH-Pasco staff. For those planning to have kids in the future, 88 percent of staff disclosed that the program has positively influenced their retention as an employee. Also, 72 percent of the survey participants reported a positive impact on morale and a decrease in the negative impact on client services due to participants returning to work sooner.

Feedback from DOH-Pasco clients has been positive, as well. Some have said they wish they could bring their babies to work with them and even asked about job opportunities at DOH-Pasco. One client commented, “Love your amazing new program allowing your employees to bring baby to work. Wish my employer would have done that so I could have kept breastfeeding.”

For more information on the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding or to find additional breastfeeding information and resources, go to https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/breastfeeding/index.html.