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A NICU Nurse Helps Make Johns Hopkins Breastfeeding-Friendly

A NICU Nurse Helps Make Johns Hopkins Breastfeeding-Friendly

Julie Murphy

Lacation consultant Julie Murphy, R.N., is on call for Johns Hopkins employees as well as moms like Kristen Querriera, holding Daniel, at Hopkins Children's.

If you ever want your pager to go off, just begin pumping breast milk, says lactation consultant Julie Murphy, a neonatal nurse at Hopkins Children’s. But the rewards for working mothers and their babies – including increased protection from infections – are profound, and Johns Hopkins is at the forefront of a national movement to help women breast-feed or pump breast milk in the workplace. Murphy, who leads the effort here, accepted “The Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Recognition Award” for the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Campus, Jan. 26, bestowed by the D.C. and Maryland Breastfeeding Coalitions.

The award, which recognizes local companies that offer breast-feeding support, education, time, and space for mothers in the workplace, is a testament to Johns Hopkins’ commitment to the practice. The medical campus now hosts three private rooms for faculty and staff, located in the hospital’s Nelson building, the Rubenstein Child Health building and the Bloomberg School of Public Health.The rooms are open 24-hours-a-day. Two have a refrigerator, sink and hospital-grade pump; the third (in the Rubenstein) is soon to be renovated to include also a sink and refrigerator. When it opens, Johns Hopkins’ new clinical building will house a fourth room.

“This is a terrific resource for employees,” says Murphy, who coordinates the pump rooms and consults with moms. “The Surgeon General has just put out a call to action for employers to maintain a lactation support program, and the Healthcare Reform Act requires employers to provide a private place for moms to pump that is not a bathroom and the time to pump until baby is 1. It’s exciting that Hopkins is already there.”

As a lactation expert at Hopkins, Murphy offers guidance to new mothers throughout the hospital, including those of patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Infant Unit and the Harriet Lane Clinic. She now divides her time equally between patient families and employees. “Mother’s milk is the very best food for almost every infant,” she says. “But we see a drop in exclusive breast-feeding at about three months, when mothers return to work, which can present a real barrier to continuing. Our goal is to help them continue exclusive breast-feeding for at least six months, with continued breast-feeding for a year or more, as mom desires.”

The benefits are multi-fold, she adds. Breast milk protects babies from ear infections and pneumonia, and lowers their risk of sudden infant death syndrome and obesity. Mothers who breast-feed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

The lactation rooms are always busy and now accommodate up to 9,000 visits a year. Murphy, who provides instruction and support, is developing an education program for employees and online resources, as well as courses on how to prepare for returning to work and travel once the baby is born, and how to pump and store milk properly.

Employees interested in learning more about the program, or in need of lactation advice, can contact Murphy, a mother of five breast-fed children of her own, at jmurphy4@jhmi.edu.

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