There is good news for breastfeeding families in Alabama. Thanks to work from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Human Sciences team, more families have the ability to select a breastfeeding …
There is good news for breastfeeding families in Alabama. Thanks to work from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Human Sciences team, more families have the ability to select a breastfeeding friendly childcare facility that prioritizes their needs and provides a supportive, welcoming environment.
More than 50 Alabama providers were certified throughout the state in 2022. The certification program is a collaboration with Alabama Extension, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Partnership for Children and the Alabama Breastfeeding Committee.
The list includes one provider in Baldwin County, Hermes Enchanted Garden, in Daphne.
The providers certified breast-feeding friendly in Alabama in 2022 serve more than 1,800 children. The certification process gives providers the knowledge to support breastfeeding families and is overseen by Alabama Extension regional agents throughout the state. Practices are related to the breastfeeding-friendly environment, breastfeeding policies, breastfeeding support, breastfeeding education, professional development and breastfeeding or infant feeding.
This program resulted in 260 improved practices among participating childcare providers, indicating an enhanced environment for breastfeeding mothers and families served by these providers.
Helen Jones, an Alabama Extension human sciences regional agent, said there is a training process for childcare providers that stresses the benefits of breastfeeding for everyone involved.
“We do the training with childcare providers for them to know the importance of breastfeeding to the mom, the baby and the importance for the childcare provider to support mothers who are breastfeeding,” Jones said.
Jones said all childcare providers, including home-based, center-based, licensed or license-exempt providers may apply for the certification. During the certification process, there are five requirements to become a breastfeeding-friendly child care provider.
The first requirement is providing a breastfeeding-friendly environment within the childcare facility. Jones said a quiet, clean and comfortable space—other than a restroom—must be available for mothers to breastfeed their children. Additionally, enough refrigerator or freezer space must be available to allow all breastfeeding mothers, including employees, to store expressed breast milk. Additionally, educational materials about breastfeeding must be displayed in multiple areas of the building.
Facilities must also have a written policy on promoting and supporting breastfeeding in the facility. The policy should include offering professional development for staff about breastfeeding and providing educational materials to families, among others.
Teachers and staff within the childcare facility should also promote breastfeeding and support mothers who choose to do so. Jones said support could be inviting mothers to come to the facility to nurse during the day or talking to families about community organizations that provide breastfeeding support.
In addition, teachers and staff at childcare facilities should obtain professional development on promoting and supporting breastfeeding at least once per year.
Lastly, the training includes feeding practices. Jones said teachers are required to inform families about what, when and how much their infants eat each day. The training also informs teachers and staff about hunger cues and when an infant may be getting full.
“I’ve noticed through doing these trainings that a lot of providers didn’t know that breastfeeding can decrease the risk of having Type 2 diabetes for the mother and also decrease the chance of the baby suffering from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome),” Jones said.
Laura Downey, Alabama Extension’s assistant director for human sciences, said the breastfeeding certification program is a priority for her and Human Sciences Extension agents in Alabama.
“In addition to the education we provide as part of this program, we work with childcare providers to identify and make the policy, system and environmental changes that are right for their facility,” Downey said.
Downey said supporting environmental changes in a childcare facility is a new approach for Human Sciences Extension and she hopes the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Certification program can serve as a model for other programs within Human Sciences Extension.
An interactive map identifying certified breastfeeding-friendly providers by Alabama county is maintained by Alabama Extension and updated quarterly. Find a list of childcare providers at www.aces.edu.