Doing the right thing for working moms benefits all of us

Published: 1/28/2021 6:00:05 AM

A Senate hearing on Senate Bill 69 took place this week, with overwhelming support of a mandate that businesses provide times and places for women to nurse their infants in the workplace.

Many New Hampshire businesses have done this for years. It is simply the right thing to do, and it is a significant benefit to all of us.

As a Concord Ob/Gyn for 35 years, I saw thousands of women 6 weeks following the births of their babies at a postpartum visit. Many of these new moms were torn between returning to their jobs (their family’s livelihood) or staying at home with their baby. A primary concern was their ability to continue breastfeeding their infants.

Science has shown that breast milk is the ideal nutrition for infants. Nature has provided a perfect mix of protein, fats, low sugar, and vitamins for healthy growth and antibodies to ward off viral and bacterial infections. Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. We see a lower incidence of overweight infants with nursing, and subsequently, a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers when they become adults.

Breastfeeding benefits the mother. Postpartum, new moms are more likely to return to their normal weights. Nursing lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. And, breastfeeding is less expensive and much more efficient than using formula to feed an infant.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of nursing is the opportunity for the mom and baby to bond.

Harvard pediatrician Barry Brazelton, who recently died at 98, established 50 years ago how critical newborn bonding is for the baby and the mom. What he called “attachment” profoundly affects the relationship between child and parent – a relationship that is vital to early and late development.

Dr. Brazelton showed that early bonding made it much more likely that children would mature into productive and happy adults and much less likely that they would suffer from mental illness, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, including addiction.

Investing in times and places for working moms to nurse costs a pittance compared to the long-term expense of these adult problems.

Finally, businesses that provide times and places for women to breastfeed will have less attrition, absenteeism, higher morale, and more loyal and productive workers.

SB 69 seems to truly benefit all of us – women, babies, businesses, and our society. I am hopeful “N,H, Employers Support Working Mothers” becomes a statute we can proudly stand by.

(Dr. Oge Young, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist, is past president of the New Hampshire Medical Society. He lives in Concord.)