NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has been rated silver in the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition’s (VBC) first “Virginia Workplace Breastfeeding-Friendly Awards (VWBF).” The VWBF recognizes work places’ ability to support breastfeeding employees.
Led by NNSY Federal Women’s Program (FWP) Waterfront Ombudsmen Michelle Johnson and Danielle Smith, inspections and focus groups aimed at identifying new and better ways to serve NNSY’s expecting and nursing mothers were held. “We wanted to figure out what locations are heavily used, how long it took for nursing mothers to pump, and if there was anything that could be improved,” said FWP Vice President Aiya Williams. “Many of them were just looking for who to talk to for guidance.”
After the FWP took this initiative, its Public Relations Chair Ashley Chew heard about the award through a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. In the light of NNSY’s efforts to support its nursing employees, she and the FWP board applied for the award by answering questions based on the insights they gathered during their research. NNSY received notice it won within the month.
Since winning the award, the program has steadily made progress with the help of Facilities Personnel (Code 980) to enhance nursing rooms around the yard. FWP members are also working with Process Improvement (Code 100PI) to make information pertaining to women who are pregnant or nursing more centralized and accessible. The FWP hopes to earn gold in 2020. “We’re only going to get better,” Chew added.
According to the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists’ website, every dollar invested in lactation support services saves three more dollars, including annual savings in healthcare and reduced absenteeism rates. Additionally, it increases employee retention, morale and loyalty. “At the end of the day, it’s supporting your people,” Williams said.
“This award is a result of the efforts made by NNSY to show its nursing employees—both current and potential—that we care,” Chew added. “It is important that mothers do not feel like they have to choose between work and taking care of their children.”