4 Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Employees

A wellness room is just not enough.

The transition from maternity leave back to work is possibly the third largest life event, apart from getting married and giving birth.  It’s a time where career women, full of drive and ambition, realize they have been given the gift of motherhood, and one of the many requirements that accompanies this gift is to feed their babies in whichever way, breastmilk or formula, is best for them and their family. 

Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 84% of moms choose to breastfeed1.  And although each mom’s goals are personal and most often kept within their most trusted circle of family and friends, it is often a goal that aligns with the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics – six months of exclusive breastmilk and 12 months of breastfeeding.  So herein lies the problem…maternity leave and returning to work straddles that goal.  As a result, that breastfeeding rate at six months postpartum drops to 57% according to the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card1.

Companies spend thousands of dollars grooming and growing female talent in the workforce.  But how does a company ensure that ROI is not lost during the transition and that new moms are aware of, and come back into, a culture of support?  It starts before maternity leave.  According to research, there is a 94% retention rate for employees of companies with lactation support programs2.  Furthermore, there is a 77% reduction in absenteeism among firms with lactation support3.  These studies are enough evidence for employers to know more can be done in the way of maternal wellness benefits.

What can employers do?  It’s simple.

1. Create a breastfeeding policy

Effective March 2010, a provision within the U.S. Health Care Reform Law requires a company with more than 50 employees to implement a breastfeeding policy.  The purpose of this policy is to define the culture of support within an organization by defining reasonable break time, whether breaks are paid or unpaid, as well as provide grievance procedures should a mom feel discriminated against.  This policy should be communicated to all employees, not just pumping moms. 

The result yields a culture of value and respect, increased loyalty, and an increase in productivity and retention.  A win for both mom and employer!

2. Provide compliant space and supplies

The provision also requires employers to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”  Many employers today provide wellness or lactation rooms to meet this requirement.

But a space alone is just the first step.  Consider providing a multi-user/hospital-grade pump, pumping supplies, and snacks.  These perks allow mom to travel back and forth to the office without having to lug her personal use breast pump, supplies, and snacks.  This low-cost benefit allows mom to only worry about her purse, laptop, and perhaps lunch…similar to what life was like before pumping, which helps with the transition of employee to pumping employee.

3. Assist traveling breastfeeding professionals

Imagine going on a business trip and having to transport expressed breast milk through security, and with potential flight delays or layovers, hoping your breast milk, #liquidgold, stays at the right temperature by the time you get home?  Enter breastmilk transport services!  Traveling moms simply package the milk in a temperature-controlled box, bring it to the hotel concierge, and off it’s shipped to her home.  Simple, uncomplicated, and a priceless benefit.

4. Provide support

Breastfeeding rates drop significantly from 3-6 months after baby is born.  Right in that timeframe is mom’s transition back to work.  With the support of a lactation consultant, mom can get advice on how to pump and store her milk, what to do if her supply decreases, and much more.  This support is critical to mom’s mindset as she enters back into the workplace.  Providing a benefit to assist in navigating that process will lead to a less anxious and overwhelmed employee returning into the workplace, yielding a higher level of productivity.

If you are an employer providing these amazing benefits to your employees, kudos to you!  And you should be recognized as a Great Place to Pump

If you are an employer that wants to help pumping moms thrive, then check out the [email protected] program – ­because pumping at work should be easy.

1 Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 2009-2016, CDC National Immunization Survey.

2 Ortiz, J., McGilligan, K., & Kelly, P. (2004).

3 2010 United States Breastfeeding Committee.  Workplace Accommodations to Support and Protect Breastfeeding. Washington, D.C.

Suzanne Vecchi is the director of operations at Acelleron, a health and wellness company that specializes in employer lactation programs.

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