The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) has been recognized for its efforts to become a breastfeeding friendly workplace. VADOC has been awarded the gold standard recognition for earning 32 or more points from the applicable criteria set out for the award. 

The award was given through the Richmond Virginia Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Recognition Program. The recognition program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition (VBC). Launched in 2019, the program is designed to elevate knowledge of the health, economic, and societal benefits of breastfeeding. Child Care Aware Virginia and Virginia Early Childhood Foundation were also part of the program. 

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver stated in a letter announcing the VADOC recognition saying, “By receiving this recognition, you have demonstrated that your workplace is dedicated to supporting mothers and families in meeting their breastfeeding goals, especially as they return to the workplace.” 

The points are earned based on a number of factors: providing educational training about breastfeeding support policy; providing guidelines to supervisors and managers; providing private areas free from intrusion with a chair and table; access to electricity and a nearby working sink; refrigerators for breast milk storage. VADOC earned 32 points from the set out criteria warranting gold standard recognition. 

A bronze award goes to those employers with 6-14 points, a silver award to those earning 15-31 points. 

Virginia has seen a greater emphasis on making workplaces breastfeeding friendly. Governor Ralph Northam encouraged breastfeeding in a letter to employees marking Breastfeeding Awareness Month back in August. 

“While the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is a personal one based on many different factors, research shows that breastfeeding and human milk provide general health, growth, and developmental advantages while significantly decreasing the risk of infant mortality and many acute and chronic diseases,” he said. 

In Virginia, mothers have the right to breastfeed in any public or private location, as long as they are legally allowed to be there.  As of July 1, 2020, the “Virginia Values Act,” went into effect and expanded Virginia’s Human Rights Act (“VHRA”). The legislation extends important protections to Virginians on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, and status as a veteran. Now, breastfeeding employees are protected from discrimination. 

The VADOC claims to provide clean, private, secure, locked accommodations for new mothers at each of its facilities, including prisons, probation and parole offices and other agency locations.

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