Campus support program caters to new moms

When Monica Steinhart and husband Daniel decided that they wanted to breastfeed their baby daughter Maya her first year, the couple faced a couple of potential barriers.

First, Steinhart, an administrative assistant in the Office of Administration, worked fulltime.

Second, she didn't have an office in which to privately pump her breast milk during the day.

But unlike most working moms across California, Steinhart had the help of a full-service breast-feeding program. Not only does the UC Davis Breastfeeding Support Program offer 10 private rooms across campus where women can pump their milk, but Steinhart and other moms can also call on the campus's certified lactation consultant, Moe Robbins, for help with breastfeeding techniques.

"I'm really glad that the room is there," Steinhart said. "For the moms that really want to give their children breast milk for the first year, it really helps to make that a reality."

The support program, open to students and staff and faculty members, will hold one of its twice monthly orientation sessions from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Cowell Student Health Center.

Since returning to work in January, three months after Maya's birth, Steinhart has been pumping daily in a small lounge off the third floor women's restroom in Mrak Hall. She needs to pump not only to ensure Maya an ample milk supply but also to avoid painful breast engorgement as milk builds up.

After about 20 minutes of pumping, Steinhart sits in the room-stocked with magazines and child-care information and decorated with baby photos-and relaxes. That's important said Robbins, a perinatal nurse at UC Davis Medical Center, because stress can lead to blocked mammary ducts and a low milk supply.

As a part of the support program, Robbins is available daily by pager for questions about milk supply, breast soreness and baby health. She also runs orientation sessions and inspects pump equipment in the lounges.

Persevering through any problems associated with breastfeeding can help employees improve their baby's health, Robbins said.

Medical studies have shown that breastfeeding can ward off upper respiratory and ear infections in babies.

Breastfed infants, as an average, also score higher on IQ tests than babies who drink formula. Long term, those breast fed as infants have lower blood pressure and lower rates of some types of cancer.

UC Davis' breastfeeding program started in 1995 at the suggestion of a postgraduate nutrition researcher, said Barbara Ashby, the program's coordinator.

"The nutrition department was seeing a lot of moms who were in a research study come back and say, 'Can I borrow that pump we used for my lunch hour?'" Ashby said.

Now moms in the campus program can purchase a hospital-quality breastfeeding kit for $38 at the UC Davis Bookstore Corral, the Medical Sciences Complex bookstore and the UC Davis Medical Center store. Typically, outside UC Davis, kits are rented for about $60 a month, according to Robbins.

Since its inception, UC Davis' lactation program has become a model for the UC system.

UC Berkeley recently designated a breastfeeding room on campus, and San Jose State University and the University of Iowa have begun support programs. Few large companies and organizations offer structured support for breastfeeding women, Ashby said.

"It's definitely on the cutting edge as a work-life issue," she said.

Over the years, Ashby has countered some resistance to the breastfeeding program, mostly about the loss of lounge space when rooms were converted for breastfeeding.

"We hope people see it's like accommodating anyone with a special need," she said.

Though her co-workers tease her a bit about her noon routine, Steinhart says she has received the full backing of her department in her goal to breastfeed Maya for a year.

"Most supervisors are supportive," Ashby agreed. "It comes back. You have an employee who knows she is taking care of her baby in the best way that she can."

The mom is then able to concentrate on her job, Ashby said.

For more information about the Breastfeeding Support Program and a complete list of pump rooms, call 752-5415 or e-mail Barbara Ashby at

Media Resources

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

Primary Category