When you think about workplace wellbeing, a few things may come to mind: exercise, nutrition, stress management etc. But there is a less obvious factor that you may have overlooked. Is your workplace breastfeeding friendly? And why should a breastfeeding friendly workplace be an important part of your wellbeing program?
Mothers are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force. Approximately 70% of employed mothers with children younger than 3 years’ work full time. We all want to make returning to work an easy transition for new mothers.
While federal law already requires employers to provide break time and a place to express breast milk at work, going above and beyond what the law requires and being supportive of returning mothers can benefit your organization so much more. Breastfeeding employees miss work less often. Also, the organization as a whole will benefit from lower health care costs, lower turnover rates, higher productivity and morale and well as positive public relations. Be sure to read The Business Case for Breastfeeding for Business Managers for more information on how supporting breastfeeding employees at your workplace contributes to your company’s return on investment (ROI).
So how can you ensure a breastfeeding friendly workplace?
A private space to express milk: Mothers will need to express milk every 2-3 hours to maintain a healthy milk supply. Employees should never be asked to express milk or breastfeed in a restroom. Breast milk is food, and restrooms are unsanitary places to prepare food. In addition, electrical outlets are usually unavailable and it is difficult and uncomfortable managing breast pump equipment in a toilet stall.
Flexible breaks: Each milk expression session usually takes around 15 minutes plus time to get to and from the lactation room. Breastfeeding employees typically need no more than an hour per work day to express milk, which can easily be divided between usual paid breaks and the meal period.
Education: Employees value information they receive during their pregnancy about continuing to breastfeed upon returning to work. Provide lactation consultants, either as a member benefit of insurance or paid by the employer.
Support: Supportive policies and practices that enable women to successfully return to work and breastfeed send a message to all employees that breastfeeding is valued. Management can encourage supervisors to work with breastfeeding employees in making reasonable accommodations to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and can encourage other employees to exhibit a positive, accepting attitude.
How supportive is your organization to returning mothers? As always, we would love to hear varied opinions, thoughts and experiences on this week’s subject. Talk to us in the comments section.