Wichita has received a designation from the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition Inc. (KBC). Wichita is one of 10 communities and the largest city in Kansas to achieve the title.
The City was designated a Community Supporting Breastfeeding (CSB) thanks to the efforts of Jolynn Dowling, instructor for the School of Nursing at Wichita State University. Dowling, along with members of the Wichita Area Breastfeeding Coalition (WABC), initiated the designation and were involved through the entire process.
The official announcement was made during the Wichita City Council meeting by Mayor Jeff Longwell, and the award was presented by Brenda Bandy, program director for the KBC.
The designation recognizes communities that have built a culture of breastfeeding support across the following sectors: businesses, employers, child care providers, hospitals, and peer support groups. Dowling also chairwoman of the WABC and chair-elect of the KBC. According to Dowling, there were many people and organizations that helped make the designation possible, including the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians worksite lactation program, project coordinator Cara Gerhardt and WSU nursing students.
Wichita achieved the CSB designation by meeting the following criteria:
- One hospital designated as a Baby-Friendly USA Hospital. Wesley Medical Center is the first hospital in the state of Kansas to earn the title.
- 10 businesses received the Breastfeeding Employee Support Award through Kansas Business Case for Breastfeeding.
- 29 businesses pledged to participate in the Breastfeeding Welcome Here program.
- 173 child care providers are breastfeeding friendly through completion of the How to Support the Breastfeeding Mother and Family course.
- A local breastfeeding coalition – WABC.
- Local peer support groups.
The designation came, in part, from research showing that, of the 78 percent of women who begin breastfeeding at birth, only eleven percent continue to breastfeed when the child ages past six months. Many women cite lack of support in the workplace and in public as the reason for discontinuing.
Dowling says the goal is to increase long-term breastfeeding rates from 6 months to 1 year.
"We hope that through this initiative, the Wichita community will encourage practices that support breastfeeding families." said Dowling.
Breastfeeding Welcome Here program
Nursing students at WSU assisted the coalition with the project and met the course objective for their N450 Care of Populations, which was to facilitate health promotion strategies in a community setting. The students recruited local businesses to talk about the importance of being supportive to breastfeeding mothers and take a pledge to become part of the "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" program. By taking the pledge, businesses agree to provide a welcoming environment for breastfeeding mothers and to display a Breastfeeding Welcome Here window decal. Employers were also encouraged to apply for the Breastfeeding Employee Support Award.
A list of participating Wichita businesses can be found here.
Business Case for Breastfeeding program
The Business Case for Breastfeeding is a national initiative through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is a comprehensive program designed to educate employers about the value of supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace.
WSU South and the WSU Community Engagement Institute have facilities to accommodate mothers and have received the Gold Level Business Case for Breastfeeding Employer Support Awards.
There are three rooms on the WSU main campus with accommodations for mothers. The rooms are located in Ahlberg, Brennan and Linquist halls.
"We are working hard to become a mother supported campus," said Dowling.
The Breastfeeding Welcome Here and Business Case for Breastfeeding programs are administered through the KBC, which supports local coalition efforts.
Dowling says Wichita leaders are beginning to see positive changes throughout the city that will foster breastfeeding success within the community.
"There are many businesses and groups in Wichita that understand the importance of promoting and protecting breastfeeding families," said Dowling. "It's not about one of us, it's about all of us."