Lacey Peterson
The Union Democrat

B y now, pretty much everyone knows that breastfeeding is healthy and important for babies, and local employers are getting on board by helping mothers have comfortable places to pump milk.

The Tuolumne County Breast Feeding Coalition recognizes employers every year during World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1 through 7) who go above and beyond in making it easier for mothers to continue to breastfeed after returning to work after their baby is born.

The Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Award this year is being given to the Sonora Police Department. The department created a lactation area/pumping area in its locker room, with a sliding “Open/Closed” sign that says “Lactation Room.”

The door to the room is fit with an extra lock, and a mini refrigerator in the room is dedicated solely to breast-milk storage.

“The chief set it all up,” said April Dahlgren, a dispatcher-records clerk who was able to pump at work for seven months, thanks to the accommodations.

Police Chief Turu VanderWiel and the department went above and beyond what Dahlgren expected.

“I just wanted a lock on the door,” she said.

Dahlgren, of Oakdale, previously worked at a veterinary clinic and, when her first child was born 5 1/2 years ago, she went back to work after only six weeks. Her son was born prematurely, so it was important for him to get the health benefits from breast milk, she said. However, the pumping space she was allotted was a shared office and it was “really stressful and cluttered,” so she ended up giving up pumping when he was about 3 1/2 months old.

This time, with her baby girl, Dahlgren was able to pump for as long she she wanted thanks to the more comfortable, supportive environment and pumped for seven months after returning to work. She stopped pumping just last week.

The room will continue to be used as one if the department’s female officer’s is pregnant.

According to the Tuolumne County Breastfeeding Coalition, the Police Department made a written policy that supports lactation breaks. During the day shift, there are two dispatchers, so one can cover while the other pumps and during the night shift, another staff member can cover during pump breaks.

“The special effort to accommodate breastfeeding employees is commendable given the intensity of their duties. We would like to acknowledge the written policy giving lactation breaks on a regular basis as needed, private room with sign, refrigerator, coverage during break time, and mostly the supportive attitude of co-workers,” the Coalition said in an email.

Dahlgren said she is appreciative of the efforts to support her pumping and says breastfeeding helps bond babies to their mothers.

Breastfeeding is also associated with many markers of improved health for children, such as lower rates of asthma, allergies, obesity and Type I diabetes.

There are benefits to mothers and children from breastfeeding, including happier moms and healthier babies. Employers benefit in offering supportive environments for pumping because their employees are happier and take less sick time off.

Among other local employers that are “Breastfeeding Friendly” are:

• Infant Center at Columbia College Child Development Center /Columbia College

• Baskin Robbins

• Tar Flat Antiques


• Twain Harte Veterinary Hospital

• Gold Rush Charter School

• The Peppery

• The Union Democrat

• Columbia Elementary School

• Sierra Vet Care

• Black Oak Casino

• Adventist Health Sonora

• Habitat for Humanity of Tuolumne County

The local LLL group meets at 10 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the Tuolumne County Library meeting room. For more information, email .

The Tuolumne County Breastfeeding Coalition is made up of members from WIC, the Tuolumne County Public Health Department, La Leche League and more. For more information, call (209) 591-8524.

The local WIC Program provides breastfeeding classes and support, peer counselors, added food vouchers, breast pumps, and breastfeeding aids for income-eligible clients. For more information, call (209) 533-7431.