Do you feel unsupported at work regarding your needs to nurse or pump milk but are hesitant to speak up and ask for assistance?
If so, then you are in good company because many new mothers are hesitant to talk to their employers about their breastfeeding needs. Some women have a fear of making a fuss, while others feel the time required will be viewed as intrusive to the mission, yet some others simply feel that they would not be supported by colleagues and supervisors who don’t have similar needs. In this post we will arm you with a few key points to bring to your employer in how they can create a supportive work environment for breastfeeding employees.
First, while many understand the benefits of breastfeeding to the health of mom and child as well as the financial savings experienced by the family; not many employers are well versed on the benefits breastfeeding may bring to their company or organization.
Share with them following facts to help them understand the win:win nature of creating a supportive environment for this effort:
- Breastfeeding often results in faster recovery from pregnancy allowing members to return to work as scheduled without needing to extend their convalescent period.
- The health benefits brought to the breastfeeding mom means an employee is now able to contribute more productively to her workplace.
- Since breastfed babies acquire less common childhood infections that bottle fed infants, breastfeeding mothers often need less time off work to tend to their sick child sent home from daycare.
- Supported employees feel more loyal to their organization and their employers and work harder for the mission.
Now that you’ve laid the foundation as to why employers should support breastfeeding moms, let’s unpack how they can do this. Breastfeeding moms have 4 essential needs at work as it relates to expressing milk.
- Privacy: employers can help most by providing access to a designated lactation room. If you are advocating for a new lactation room, be sure to request a space that has an electrical outlet, a door which locks from the inside, a sink to clean your breast pump and supplies or access to a sink nearby, a table or flat surface to hold breast pump, a comfortable chair, a small refrigerator, disinfectant & anti-microbial wipes, a waste basket, and a bulletin board to share educational resources.
- Flexible breaks and work options: help your employer understand that women need to express milk about every 3 hours or 2-3 times during a typical work day and each milk expression takes around 20 minutes. Additionally, the mom will need time to go to and from the lactation room, clean the pump and parts, and label the newly filled bottle. The most effective way to ensure this time is allotted is to schedule it into your day with your bosses’ review and approval.
- Education: Many first-time mothers, and even seasoned ones, will need help learning how to balance the requirements of motherhood with their job responsibilities. Employer-provided information and resources accessible through the worksite during the prenatal period and after the baby is born help both the mom and the organization. In particular, the availability of a lactation consultant helps many new moms with anxiety and frustration that may arise during the experience which may understandably affect job performance. Similarly, corporate approved support and interest groups allow valuable knowledge sharing free of cost.
- Support: a positive, accepting attitude from leadership, supervisors, and coworkers helps breastfeeding employees feel confident in their ability to continue working while breastfeeding.
The employer could assist by creating standard lactation program policies, developing training programs for supervisors, and communicating positive associations to the breastfeeding experience. By promoting a lactation program as a company health benefit, accommodating needs in a similar fashion to programs established to ensure fitness and educational needs are met, it will be seen as more equitable and encompassing.
Ultimately, by sharing with your employer the benefits their organization realizes by creating a supportive environment to breastfeeding mothers (lower absenteeism rates, lower turnover rates, higher productivity, and faster return to the workplaces) and showing them how to accomplish this; ultimately you will create a wonderful work environment for yourself and many appreciative women in the future! Go forth and change the world!