Yankton’s Shur-Co. was already enabling breastfeeding moms at work with a special accommodation, but when the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) announced a grant to update a lactation space, company managers jumped at the opportunity.
It started about 18 months ago when Maggie Kaltsulas, marketing specialist for Shur-Co, discovered just before going on maternity leave that pediatricians recommend new mothers breastfeed their newborns for a year — at the minimum.
"I was like, ‘Nursing for a year? I won’t be able to nurse for a year!’" Kaltsulas said. "Coming back to work, they made it so easy for me; it worked for my son and I."
When she went on maternity leave, there was no place for a breastfeeding mom to pump, but according to federal regulations, breastfeeding mothers must be given a clean, private place to express milk while at work.
"Before I left, our HR manager asked me if I was planning on nursing when I came back or not. I said, ‘Yes, I am,’" Kaltsulas said. "When I came back, they had a room set up for me."
A basic lactation room requires very little: a door that locks and an outlet for the breast pump and privacy, but that was just fine, she said.
"I came back from leave, I had this room; I would go use it twice a day — that is what is recommended — once in the morning and once in the afternoon. So I got done nursing in May," she said.
In the past year, Shur-Co has gone from having no nursing mothers on staff to four taking turns in the room each day. Management perceived a need to create a more friendly work environment for their breastfeeding employees, she said.
The Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Grant that Kaltsulas found out about could be used to create a new lactation space, improve an existing lactation space or to implement innovative, space-saving ideas to meet staff breastfeeding needs for employees who primarily work outdoors or frequently travel.
"Five to 10 South Dakota businesses were going to be rewarded up to $1,000 in grant money to either create a lactation room or improve their existing conditions," she said. "So, we applied for that and received $500 from the state, and Shur-Co will match that"
Kaltsulas hopes to have the updates to the lactation room, which include a new chair, a mini fridge and a privacy blind for the door, implemented by the end of the month.
Shur-Co employee Michelle Wolhoy uses the lactating room daily and is looking forward to the upgrade.
"It feels great to be able to provide for a child during working hours," Wolhoy told the Press & Dakotan. "And yes, it (will) be a great improvement! It (will) be good to be able to relax a little more and make me feel a little more at home."
Though the grant is now closed, other South Dakota businesses can become breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, even taking a pledge at healthysd.gov.
"(It’s) good to have a support group," Wolhoy said. "I wish everyone’s work place would have that opportunity like Shur-Co."
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