Leticia Rodriguez, director of the Lovely Sunshine Learning Center in Little Rock, has transformed a room in her childcare center into a place where staff and clients can feel comfortable breastfeeding or pumping breast milk, thanks to a $3,000 subgrant from the UAMS Department of Family and Preventive Medicine’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition for Arkansas (SPAN).
Lovely Sunshine Learning Center is one of 15 early childcare centers that will receive the subgrants from SPAN, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. SPAN seeks to encourage breastfeeding in early childcare settings because research has shown that children who breastfeed six months or more may reduce their risk of obesity as well as severe asthma, SIDS, ear infections and some chronic diseases.
Rodriguez has used the money to buy two nursery swivel chairs, a colorful throw rug, mini-refrigerator, lamp with USB outlets, boppy pillow, bookshelf and framed pictures for décor. She also wants a drape that will separate the room so two mothers can privately breastfeed at the same time. SPAN will also supply milk storage bags, posters and pamphlets.
“I have a breastfeeding mom (parent of a student) and one staff member that breastfeed. My employee doesn’t care if anyone sees her breastfeed, but the mom was not comfortable in the room. She breastfed in the reception area which isn’t private because staff members and parents are always coming through,” said Rodriguez, who completed the room September 2022. “So far, the response has been good!”
Three other childcare centers have also received the funds, and moms have immediately begun using the made-over rooms. Bingham Road Baptist Child Development Center in Pulaski County took an unused infant room and gave it a breastfeeding makeover, complete with chair, rug, mini-refrigerator, décor and covers for moms as they breastfeed their babies. A staff member and new mom were quick to use the room, with the new mom saying, “It’s so great not having to feed in my car.”
Tonya Ritter, director/coordinator for ABC Preschool at Heber Springs Elementary, has redone an unused office at the school with a soft chair, lamp, rug and mini-refrigerator. She plans to add a plant in the corner, brochure stand, framed landscapes for the walls and a shelf to house WIC information and a book about breastfeeding for children. Supplies for the moms are conveniently stored in a basket, and the room connects with the nurse’s office in case of issues.
“It has been used by a few who had to pump in their cars on their breaks,” Ritter said. “They are so appreciative. We have a few expectant mothers who are so excited to have a place to go rather than their cars.”
Another childcare center that used the grant money is Janna’s Little Angels in Little Rock. Lanna Horton, director, transformed a room for storage/staff into a light-filled, colorful breastfeeding space for her families. Two moms have started using it, and the center plans to add a refrigerator to store milk. A door connects to the infant classroom, so mothers will now have a space where they can visit on their breaks, a much better solution than the director’s office.