A charming Main Street invites you to open its shops' doors. Inside my generation, all sorts of miniature apparel evokes smiles and squeals. Walk a few steps further, and there's a haven waiting for moms.
"We've actually dubbed it 'the Nest'. And, we've had that open since day one. That was one of the things that was so important for me to have was an area for when moms come and shop downtown and their babies get hungry that they can take a break," said My Generation store owner Victoria Wakeman.
For mom Jennifer Trygstad 'the Nest' is a welcome spot for her and 11-month-old Nora.
"Other times when we've been shopping elsewhere and you don't have a place to go we'll go in the car. So, it's great that you can have a warm, comfortable place to come nurse if she's hungry and then we don't have to make her wait," said Trygstad.
The maternal act of breastfeeding is something many women struggle with physically, emotionally, professionally, and socially.
"We know that babies get the best start if they can exclusively breastfeed for six months," said Brookings Health OB Director Mary Schwaegerl.
Brookings Health System is working to become a baby friendly hospital. That means implementing practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
"To make sure that women have that opportunity to exclusively breastfeed if they want to. To remove any challenges they have because it is true that women start out breastfeeding but there are challenges they meet after they leave the facility, and they're not able to continue breastfeeding," said Schwaegerl.
That's where South Dakota State University and the Brookings Chamber of Commerce come in. The two are collaborating with Brookings Health on a project called "Brookings Supports Breastfeeding."
This past fall the project was boosted by a prestigious Bush Foundation grant, totaling more than $72,000.
"We want to see increased awareness about the issue of breastfeeding in the community. We want to build bridges and collaboration between all the people this interests so anyone that's interested in the health of our families. And, we also want to generate solutions that are unique to the assets that we have in Brookings," said Dr. Jenn Anderson, an assistant professor at SDSU in the Communications Studies and Theater Department.
Right now the group is forming focus groups, trying to figure out how they can make breastfeeding and transitioning back into the workplace easier for moms.
"With the businesses they're very excited to be able to have a forum to speak to it. Not only for their employees, but also for their customers. I think that will lead to a better quality of life that can happen here in the community and we know workforce development is a big issue right now," said Heidi Gullickson, the Executive Director at the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce.
Long-time Brookings business Daktronics is a shining example for the group.
"It's a physical demonstration of our caring about employees and their families. The employee finds it very helpful as they're trying to create that work life fit as they re-enter the workplace after their leave," said Carla Gatzke, VP of Human Resources at Daktronics.
There are four mothers' rooms on the Daktronics campus equipped with comfortable seating, a refrigerator for bottles, and the very important schedule.
"If I didn't have this here I would have been at work stressed about when and how if it was ok. When I'm at work I'm able to focus on work and not worry how to get this done," said Christine Pickard a HR Generalist at Daktronics.
Because of these mothers' rooms, Pickard was able to breastfeed each of her three children for nine months. She says Daktronics has provided her with a work life balance. One she thinks should be mirrored.
"Unemployment here is crazy low. We need everybody who is willing and able to work," said Pickard. "And, for some people this would stop people from working. They wouldn't be able to balance having their kids and providing for their kids and being at work. So, I think it's great."
The "Brookings Supports Breastfeeding" group believes this sort of culture will draw more talented women to the city.
"I think that one of the most exciting things about Brookings is it's a growing community economically and socially. It's just a vibrant place to be," said Anderson. "And, I think having that kind of support in the workplace draws talented workers to this community. Young professional woman who are saying I want to be able to have a work life balance."
For My Generation store owner Victoria Wakemen dialogue like this makes her proud of her community.
"This initiative is just amazing. And, what it's going to lead to is healthier babies, healthier moms, more educated families, more educated community that can come together for a really good cause," said Wakeman.
Joining one's personal life with professional is always a challenge, but this group is trying to make it just a little easier.
"If you can get a healthy baby and happy mom you're going to have an employee that's going to be there more for you," said Schwaegerl.
For additional information on Brookings Health's baby friendly initiative click on this link: http://brookingshealth.org/news/brookings-health-system-to-pursue-who-and-unicef-s-baby-friendly-designation/
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