Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: what we wish our employer can provide

If you ask any working mom about breastfeeding and pumping, she’ll likely tell you that it is like having another job, now combine that with child care, a regular job and everything in between. whew! IT IS ALOT! and given the substantial presence of mothers in the workforce, there is a strong need to establish lactation support in the workplace.

According to UNICEF, Breastfeeding support is crucial as breastfeeding nourishes and provides all children with the best start in life. Breast milk acts as a baby’s first vaccine, providing critical protection from diseases and even death. Breastfeeding also allows for secure attachment, cognitive development and reduces the burden of childhood and maternal illness, lowering health care costs, creating healthier families and strengthening the development of societies.

Despite these clear benefits, The vast majority of moms like me who initially breastfed their babies during Maternity leave stop doing so outrightly or gradually once returning to work. Why so? because we face nearly insurmountable barriers when it comes to feeding our babies breastmilk.

These barriers include

  • a lack of flexibility for breastfeeding and/or milk expression in the work schedule
  • lack of accommodations to pump or store breast-milk
  • concerns about support from employers and colleagues, and
  • real or perceived low milk supply

Why should employers support breastfeeding in the workplace though? Does it have any significant human and economic benefits? Yes! Let me highlight some,

  • Positive Public Relations and Improving the corporate image of businesses, showing that they care about the health and well-being of working women and their families. 
  •  Increase in Employee Morale and Loyalty  
  •  Reducing the amount of leave requests made to attend doctors’ appointments, for both mother and child, as well as the amount of sick leave,
  •  Reducing maternity-related absenteeism
  •  Increasing the retention of female workers, as they feel more supported by the company,
  •  Reducing the employee turnover rates, and saving the company money by eliminating the need to hire and train new staff.

Now that we know it is a win-win for both employers and employees, let’s jump right into it. How can employers provide Support for Nursing Moms at Work?

  • Implementing corporate policies to support breastfeeding women
    • Offering milk expression breaks that are scheduled, part of breaks
    • Deciding who will cover for the employee, if needed, during breaks
    • Stating how breaks will be scheduled among multiple women who may need milk expression or pumping breaks
  • Companies and businesses should educate supervisors, managers, and employees about the benefits of supporting nursing mothers.
    • Offer prenatal classes and postpartum lactation counseling 
    • Coworkers can support nursing mothers by filling in during pumping breaks
    •  knowing that breastfeeding mothers need to pump about every 3 hours
    • understanding that mothers who need a break to pump are not trying to avoid their work dutie
    • and being supportive of the flexibility that mothers need to balance breastfeeding with work
  • providing designated private space for breastfeeding or expressing milk
    •  At the least:
      • Private, clean room with a lock that is not a bathroom
      • A table and good chairs close to outlets
      • Sink & mirror in the room for cleaning
    • Even better
      • Microwave for sterilizing
      • Cooler or Refrigerator to store freshly expressed milk
      • lockers for moms to keep extra parts/personal items. 
      • Breast pump equipment  
      • A full-length mirror so you can check yourself on the way out
  • Giving mothers flexible options for returning to work, such as remote work, part-time work, early close time and extended maternity leave
  • providing on-site or near-site child care
  • offering professional lactation management services and support.

 Both large and small business owners reap substantial benefits by supporting female employees who wish to continue breastfeeding their infants upon returning to work. Employers should think of it as an investment; by supporting lactating mothers, companies prioritize the well being, mental and physical health of their employees. This in turn would Increase Employee Morale and Loyalty while giving the company a good image.

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