Budget cuts affect new mothers on campus

Got milk? New mothers at UC Davis and their infants will lose access to hospital grade breast pumps on campus.

Due to the budget crisis, Human Resources will discontinue the Breastfeeding Support Program at the end of June 2010.

The Breastfeeding Support Program provides hospital grade pumps for nursing faculty and student mothers. The program also provides access to a lactation specialist and a monthly support group. The support group, run by Lona Hampton, educates new mothers on topics such as increasing milk supply and introducing solids to a baby’s diet. The program has been in operation since 1995.

From 2008-2009, there were 97 registered participants: 59 percent was staff, 32 percent was students, 6 percent was faculty and 3 percent was a spouse or partner.

During the 2009 academic year to the present, there have been 38 registered participants: 55 percent was staff, 26 percent was students, 8 percent was faculty and 11 percent was a spouse or partner.

UC Davis is obligated by law to provide a room for nursing mothers to breastfeed, but all additional services such as the pumps and the lactation specialist will no longer be available.

Women’s Resources and Research Center (WRRC) intern Brook Colley, a third-year graduate student, became a mother last May.

“When I came back to school this fall this program and the support it provided helped retain me as a student,” Colley said. “The Shriver report data shows these kinds of programs are important in providing support for women in the workforce, and here at UC Davis that includes the students.”

Barbara Ashby is the manager of the WorkLife unit that administers the Breastfeeding Support Program and has been with the organization since 1995.

“The WorkLife team is proud that our UC Davis BFSP has served as the model for other institutions,” Ashby said. “We trust that our campus community will continue to take advantage of the lactation sites and resource and referral information.”

Organizations around campus, such as the WRRC, Status of Women at Davis Administrative Advisory Committee (SWADAAC) and the Chancellor’s Child Care Advisory Committee, are now scrambling to find funding outside of the Human Resources Department to keep the program running.

Last year’s budget was approximately $12,000, including a $9,300 salary for the lactation specialist and $2,600 in operating expenses. This year, the program is on one-time, discretionary funds to facilitate the transition. 

The program is important to the community in a number of ways, Colley said.

“Many women are here during childbearing years, and having the program makes UCD more attractive to women students, staff and faculty,” Colley said. “The program reflects the goal of putting UCD research into practice and helps improve quality of life by allowing new parents to get support in dealing with parenting concerns or issues.”

The World Health Organization advocates a minimum of six months of breastfeeding to promote the healthy babies. One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is a decrease in infant obesity. Since babies’ systems are optimized for milk consumption, babies tend to feel full faster and eat less if they consume breast milk rather than formula.

Nutrition major and new WRRC intern Annie Chen is helping raise awareness about the program and the benefits of breastfeeding.

“We spent a week learning about the benefits of breastfeeding in class right before I found out this program was getting cut,” Chen said. “I find it frustrating that this is a university doing research on lactation and promising to use research in improving quality of life, and yet we’re cutting a program like this.”

There are currently 28 lactation sites. To help maintain privacy, only registered members are provided with information on the location of the sites. These sites will remain open, but the pumps will be sold. New lactations sites are part of the standard design for new construction, since the campus must provide space to breastfeed.

Information on breastfeeding education and community-based resources and services will be provided through the WorkLife Wellness website.

There were 5,716 logged visits, or 476 per month, to the sites last year and there have been 1,741 logged visits, or 580 per month, this year.

WRRC Director Margaret Swain is an advocate for the program.

“This is a vital work-life and mandated accommodation issue for women on this campus whether they are students, staff or faculty,” Swain said. “The WRRC as an organization is actively working with the current Breastfeeding Support Program to find solutions, funding and to keep this vital, award-winning program running.”

JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

One Comment

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Login »