Dads urge board and employers to support breastfeeding mothers

August 8, 2014

Three dads, including Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis, urged Multnomah County Commissioners on Thursday to proclaim August Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

Nearly all newborns in Multnomah County begin life breastfeeding, one of the best rates in the nation. But by two months, the rates have dropped precipitously, said Dr.Lewis, a practicing pediatrician. That is important because breastfed babies suffer fewer allergies, asthma, respiratory infections, ear infections and health issues around obesity.

“It would seem that doing something natural, cheap, safe and convenient like breastfeeding would be obvious. It is obvious but it is not easy thing to do,’’ he said. “As counties, employers and as fathers, we need to support mothers so they can continue to breastfeed both at home and when they return to the workplace.”

Kevin McCray and Byron Redmond testify at hearing
Fathers Kevin McCray and Byron Redmond asked the board to support breastfeeding.

Kevin McCray, Jr., told the board it built health and emotional support for his whole family when his wife breastfed their son, born five weeks early. “Supporting our wives, letting them know they can do it,” said Byron Redmond. “You watch  the bond between a child and their mother, and it’s perfect.”

“I am so inspired, and you are all so engaged with your families, you make me want to have another baby,’’ said Commissioner Loretta Smith, drawing loud applause.

Lesa-Kay Pinker, a trainer for Ride Connection, told how her organization supported her and other mothers in breastfeeding and now has lower staff turnover and happier employees as a result of their family-friendly policies.

Group supporting breastfeeding poses for pictures
Breastfeeding supporters celebrate Board of Commissioners' proclamation.
Helle Rode, of Oregon Health & Sciences University, said OHSU supports breastfeeding and pumping for patients, employees and students.

It’s easy to create a pumping space, it doesn’t need to be large or elaborate, it just needs a private space with a table, a chair and an electrical outlet with a sink and a refrigerator nearby, it can’t be anywhere there is a toilet.”

Lisa Lien, a mother of three who is studying to be a lactation consultant, appeared with her son, Kellen, 4. to describe the challenge of pumping while working and commuting an hour each way to work.
She then read the proclamation: on how breastfeeding improves baby and mother’s health.

Commissioner Loretta Smith holds Kellen Lien
Commissioner Loretta Smith holds Kellen Lien after the hearing where his mother, Lisa, testified.

After sharing some of their own experiences, commissioners voted unanimously supported proclaiming August 2014 as National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Multnomah County.