Holy Cross Hospital is promoting breastfeeding among its employees, patients, and the wider community. Working with the Latch On Breastfeeding Coalition and the NM Breastfeeding Task Force Taos Chapter, the hospital has created a lactation room and sponsored a breastfeeding mural, recently completed on the corridor wall outside Labor and Delivery by muralist Lynnette Haozous. The opening reception for the mural took place Friday, December 6th.
Breastfeeding offers a wide array of health benefits for both baby and mother. Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses of the digestive and respiratory tract, fewer ear infections, and lower rates of infant mortality and SIDS. Health benefits continue throughout life: children who were breastfed have less allergies, eczema, and asthma, fewer childhood cancers, lower risk of diabetes types 1 and 2, lower rates of obesity, better immunity, and improved brain maturation. Adults who were breastfeed as babies are also less likely to develop some autoimmune diseases, heart disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and breast cancer. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding their babies as well, experiencing lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer, autoimmune diseases, endometriosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that moms know how beneficial breastfeeding can be for themselves and their babies, but without sufficient support, it can become impossible. Breastfeeding requires commitments of time and energy from family members and employers as well as from the mother. Returning to work is often the time when a mother will abandon her plans to breastfeed if there are no accommodations for pumping milk or breastfeeding the baby on site (if the caregiver can bring the baby to the workplace.)
With the support of the Latch On Breastfeeding Coalition and the NM Breastfeeding Task Force Taos Chapter, breastfeeding advocates Pam Akin, Chief Nursing Officer, and Renee Laughlin, Compliance Officer, motivated the Holy Cross Hospital Senior Leadership Team to identify and furnish a lactation room for its employees and visitors late in 2018. Breastfeeding employees in New Mexico are guaranteed the legal right to take unpaid leave time from their jobs to breastfeed or pump breast milk. Until recently, Holy Cross employees needed to go retrieve the key to the lactation room from the Charge Nurse, which took precious minutes away from the job. The Taos Chapter applied to the State Breastfeeding Task Force for a grant to purchase a keypad lock for the lactation room, cutting down on the leave time required. This lock will be installed in the near future. The code to the room will be changed on a regular basis and breastfeeding employees will be notified of the current code.
Last Spring the Taos Chapter also applied to the State Task Force for a grant to paint a breastfeeding mural at the Hospital. Renee Laughlin introduced the idea to the Senior Leadership Team, who wholeheartedly embraced the idea. Latch On and the Task Force identified muralist Lynnette Haozous to be the project’s artist. Lynnette has roots at Taos Pueblo as well as within the Chiricahua and San Carlos Apache tribes. She has painted murals at the Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, as well as at the Ute Mountain AIR in Questa where she completed a residency in 2018. Her brilliantly colored work uses design elements from her native cultures to honor and celebrate life. She was moved by the mural’s goal to promote breastfeeding among the community, and completed the design and execution of the stunning mural for a very modest stipend. She incorporated visual elements including Taos Pueblo basketry designs, the local landscape, and herbs good for lactation, including milk thistle and alfalfa. The outline of the mother holding her baby forms the shape of a heart, symbolizing the love at the heart of the breastfeeding relationship and the love each mother requires to nurture and support her baby.
Latch On and the Breastfeeding Task Force recognize and honor each mother’s choice whether to breastfeed her baby based on her own unique health, family, and workplace circumstances. They strive to ensure that mothers who do choose to breastfeed have the support and advocacy they need to do so. Latch On and the NM Breastfeeding Task Force are available to consult at no cost with any business interested in creating a lactation room for their employees, which must have these very simple amenities: a comfortable chair, a small table, and an electric outlet. A Lactation Room Challenge is currently in effect for businesses wishing to submit a photo of their lactation room, to be included in an online contest with three categories: Most Homey, Most Stylish, and Best Use of Space. Send queries and lactation room photos to the local Task Force chapter at Taos@breastfeedingnm.org to receive assistance in creating a lactation room or developing breastfeeding-friendly policies and procedures.
Written by Beth Enson, Co-Chair of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force Chapter