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Manatee County workers appreciate the Mother's Lounge

BRADENTON -- Deep inside the maze of office cubicles at the County Administrative Center is a quiet, private space.

Windowless and painted a pale blue, it has a lock on the door.

It is called the “Mother’s Lounge.”

Its purpose is to provide nursing mothers who work for Manatee County with privacy and peace, so they can continue to breast-feed their children, even though they have returned to work after giving birth.

They accomplish it in the Mother’s Lounge, using a breast pump that keeps their milk flowing. They save the milk, which is fed to their babies while they are away. Or, if their children occasionally visit the office, they can breast-feed there.

The Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County is working with the county and other employers to encourage such places in support of breast-feeding.

“We support any organization that accommodates breast-feeding matters,” said Luz Corcuera, the coalition’s program director.

Researchers have found breast-feeding benefits include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychological, social, economic and environmental; and that human milk is “uniquely superior for infant feeding,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.

Employed women are less likely to start breast-feeding, and tend to nurse for a shorter time than those who are not employed, according to a “Call to Action” report at the website of the U.S. Surgeon General.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act included a provision for employers to provide workplace accommodations for breast-feeding employees.

A committee Corcuera serves on is working with the county and other employers to improve facilities for nursing mothers, she said. And they are seeking donations to make the Mother’s Lounge a little nicer.

“Right now, we are searching for comfortable chairs, pictures, coffee tables, any breastf-eeding or related videos, magazines, brochures, etc. that can be useful to moms,” Corcuera wrote in an e-mail missive.

She asked recipients to notify her if they had any furniture to donate, or decorating ideas.

“We want to spiff the place up, with comfortable seating, a calm color,” said Cheri Coryea, county neighborhood services director.

Her office on the fifth floor of the center, at 1112 Manatee Ave. W., is near the lounge.

The private room is just for county employees -- it is not open to the public, Coryea said.

“We have two or three mothers at a time who need a place to privately pump breast milk,” Coryea explained.

One of those who has used the lounge is planner Katie LaBarr.

“It was great having a place at work set aside for me to express,” she said. “It was ideal.”

She coordinated schedules with other new moms for using the room.

Although her 1-year-old son Noah is no longer breast-feeding, she appreciates the support from her employer that the Mother’s Lounge represents.

“I knew it was the best thing for my son,” she said. “It was truly a great experience because it helped me to bond with him on a very deep level.

“The bond is something nobody understands until they experience that.”