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Advocating for the breastfeeding mother in the workplace

Monday, January 14, 2019

Supporting moms who want to breastfeed is important work, especially if you're fighting for their (or your) right to breastfeed in public without discrimination. But finding ways to advocate for breastfeeding moms in the workplace is just as important, if not more so.  Women with children are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. work force. In 2015, more than half of mothers with infants under a year old participated in the work force. Going back to work after an average maternity leave of 8 weeks is stressful!  Then add in pumping for a new baby, trying to juggle a busy work day, meeting deadlines, and having conferences, it's even more difficult to find that time to pump and maintain your milk supply. Not to mention, now you have to carry an extra bag with your pumping gear, clean it, find a place in the office to store your milk, and take it all home with you again at the end of the day. It can be exhausting.  It’s no wonder why many women quit breastfeeding within the first 6 months.  

But what's even more exhausting is when your workplace isn't on board with your breastfeeding goals. It doesn't matter if you breastfeed in the workplace or have a co-worker who does — every breastfeeding mom deserves to be advocated for at work.  Below you will find the benefits of a breastfeeding friendly worksite as well as what your responsibility is as an employer or employee.   

 Why should a workplace support breastfeeding women?

Supporting breastfeeding mothers is not only the right thing to do, it helps businesses save money and retain employees. Supporting breastfeeding women in the workplace has bottom line benefits for employers. In fact, businesses that implement lactation support programs often see a return on investment of 3:1.

  • Breastfeeding employees miss work less often
  • Breastfeeding lowers health care costs
  • Breastfeeding support in the workplace reduces turnover rates
  • Workplace lactation support programs improve productivity and loyalty
  • Breastfeeding support can generate positive public relations

Accommodating Breastfeeding Employees

Workplace support for breastfeeding women has four components, which can be summed with the acronym STEP:

  • Support: From supervisors, colleagues and the employer
  • Time: Leave after birth and flexible scheduling to accommodate lactation breaks during work time
  • Education: For mothers, fathers and supervisors about the benefits of breastfeeding and the worksite policy
  • Place: A private space to express milk

Responsibilities of the employee

·  It is the responsibility of any employee who wishes to express milk during work hours to keep supervisors informed so that the needs of both the employee and employer may continue to be met and accommodations may be made if necessary.

· Know your work place lactation policy and if there is a lactation room available.

·  Employees should always label expressed milk with their name and the date collected. This is to avoid confusion with another employee’s milk, or other items that may be stored in common food storage areas.

·  If additional time is needed beyond permitted breaks and meals the employee should communicate with their manager

For additional workplace resources for employees or employers:

Blog by Nikki Mullanix, LPN, CLC

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