Valley City tops the list of North Dakota businesses designated as “infant friendly” by the North Dakota Department of Health with seven for the city, said Deanna Askew, Healthy Communities for the N.D. Department of Health.
This year the health department designated 20 state businesses as infant friendly.
Designated Valley City businesses are the City-County Health District, City of Valley City, Sanford Health Clinic, Sanford Health Eye Clinic, Valley City Area Chamber of Commerce, Valley City State University and the Circle of Friends Preschool.
State employers can apply for the designation if they adopt a worksite policy including flexible work scheduling including:
*Scheduling breaks and permitting work patterns providing time for expression of breast milk;
*A convenient, sanitary, safe and private location other than a restroom for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk.
*A convenient, clean and safe water source with facilities for washing hands and rinsing breast-pumping equipment located near the private location.
*A convenient place for temporarily storing breast milk, such as a refrigerator or cooler.
Bismarck had the second largest number of designated businesses at five.
Derek Hughes, director of human resources at VCSU, said Wednesday the university adopted its infant-friendly policy in September of 2011, “and revised it in January of 2012.”
“It reinforces our existing culture. We want to be an attractive employer and attract employees,” Hughes said.
“It’s certainly something we are proud of (receiving the designation). As baby boomers retire, and younger people are hired, we want to make VCSU as attractive as possible,” Hughes said.
Hughes said to gain the state designation, VCSU completed the needed paperwork, “and designed a policy that designates employee rights. VCSU cares about the decision to raise a family.”
On campus, Hughes said a “clean and private place” has been provided for mothers. “We converted a space specifically for the use and not for anything else to show employees we respect their privacy.
He said keys to the area are only given to mothers needing access, “and it’s not on the main floor.”
Hughes said supervisors have been involved and are aware breaks must be unscheduled.
The area has no windows, access to several electrical outlets for using pumps, and has a special chair and countertop for use of those using the area.
It has lockable storage units, a refrigerator, labels to mark bottles, and plenty of access to fresh water.
VCSU also has off-site work locations, such as in Kathryn.
Hughes said one person asked for and was provided with a private office to use at Kathryn when needed. “That employee spends some of her time in Kathryn, and some of her time in Valley City,” Hughes said.
Alison Kasowski is VCSU assistant director of annual giving. The mother of 10-month-old Gray said Thursday she appreciates the efforts VCSU is making.
“What is most appealing is it is not a marked room and it is open to all mothers,” Kasowski said.
Kasowski said she is most familiar with the VCSU policy giving 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave and use of the private mother’s room to new mothers. “It is a very nice perk for people who haven’t had children yet. VCSU is trying to make VCSU more attractive, and is definitely supportive of new mothers,” Kasowski said.
Kasowski said she didn’t use the mother’s room for long. She said it was there before she went on maternity leave, “but it wasn’t fixed up. It’s really nice now.”
Hughes said the mother’s room chair is likely the most comfortable on campus. Kasowski agreed: “I would have liked to take it back to my office.”
Eight other North Dakota cities also have businesses designated as infant friendly: Dickinson, Enderlin, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Lisbon, Rolla and Williston. The other eight cities had one designated business each.
Designating the businesses coincides with Gov. Jack Dalrymple proclaiming Aug. 1 through Aug. 7 as Breastfeeding Week in North Dakota.
Said Askew, “We understand that if a woman has support in her place of employment she will breastfeed her infant for a longer duration. This will give the baby and edge in overall health, including fewer infections, disease, obesity and diabetes.”