Data to Action Success Story: Oregon

Problem Overview

Many women discontinue breastfeeding when they return to work because of barriers in the workplace including inflexibility in work hours, lack of privacy for breastfeeding or expressing milk, and lack of storage for expressed breastmilk.1 Oregon PRAMS data from 1999 showed that whereas more than 90% of Oregon women initiated breastfeeding, many stopped by the time their infant was 3–4 months old. The American Academy of Pediatricians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, and many other health organizations recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. Among the women who stopped breastfeeding, 37% said they did so because they were planning on going to work or school, and they anticipated difficulty in continuing to breastfeed.

Program Activity Description

Interested in developing ways to increase breastfeeding in Oregon, an Oregon Public Health Division staff study group identified barriers by using Oregon PRAMS data and worked with building managers to identify and refurbish space that allowed state employees to breastfeed at work. In 2007, the study group took their findings to the state legislature and helped create Oregon House Bill 2372, known as “Rest Periods for Expression of Breast Milk,” which requires large employers to provide time and space for breastfeeding. Subsequently, through the sponsorship by Oregon’s U.S. Senator, Ron Wyden, features of the Oregon law were incorporated into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 2010.

Program Activity Outcomes

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries created guidelines that have been implemented statewide. The regulations require employers of 25 or more employees to allow women at least a 30-minute break period every 4 hours and a private area, other than a public restroom, to express milk. PRAMS data shows an increase in the proportion of women who exclusively breastfed for at least 9 weeks from 9.3% in 2007 to 12.2% in 2008.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2011.