As a society, we’re starting to realize the undeniable benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby, especially when mom exclusively breastfeeds for at least six months. From providing optimal nutrition for infants to lowering the risk of certain conditions, breastfeeding plays a major role in infant growth and health.
Breastfeeding is so powerful that it even benefits employers. Supported moms are often more productive and loyal employees. Because breastfeeding is healthier for babies, one corporation saw a 62% drop in prescriptions written for babies and employees.
The Aeroflow Breastpumps team and I have had the opportunity to talk to thousands of moms, and we’ve learned while some moms have inspirational stories of pumping success while being supported at work, others do not. We’ve heard too many stories of breast pumping mothers having to pump in storage closets or their cars. Some moms even give up on their breastfeeding goals because pumping at work is too challenging.
In a society pushing for breastfeeding as more moms return to work, how can we make sure that moms have the support they need to successfully breastfeed? To answer that question, we went directly to moms.
In a third-party survey, we asked 774 expectant moms to share their thoughts, and their answers confirmed our suspicion that breastfeeding at work can adversely affect a mom’s career.
The questions we asked included:
Have you ever had a negative interaction with a co-worker because of breastfeeding/pumping?
Does your place of employment have a designated lactation area?
Are you concerned that breastfeeding could impact your career growth?
Does your employer currently have a breastfeeding/pumping policy in place?
30% of working moms feel uncomfortable in their ability to breast pump on the job, and less than 50% even know their breastfeeding policy. 63% believe there is a stigma attached to breastfeeding at work, and 35% have actually had a negative interaction with a coworker because of it. So it makes sense that 49% of moms are worried that breastfeeding at work could impact their career growth.
It shouldn’t be this way, and it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of ways to support breastfeeding mothers to help them reach their goals.
How To Support Breastfeeding Mothers
Find other moms and ask them what their experience breastfeeding was like.
Tell your supervisor or HR specialist about your plan to breastfeed well before your maternity leave to give them time to prepare.
Know your rights. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employers are required to provide reasonable break time for mothers to express milk up to one year after their child’s birth. They must also provide a private space separate from a bathroom that’s free from the intrusion of coworkers and the public for the purpose of breast pumping.
Dust off your employee handbook, and update your lactation policy (or create one) to adequately meet the needs of working mothers.
Make the breast pumping policy known. Advertise it in employee orientations and meetings to let moms know they’ll be supported.
Go to the source and ask moms what they actually need for a functional lactation room.
Realize the benefits. Many employers save $3 for every $1 invested in supporting working moms.
Offer to help out by letting working moms know that you can assist with projects if needed.
Congratulate moms on your team. Acknowledge that having a baby is difficult and they’re doing a great job.
Avoid any negative conversations.
While progress has been made in supporting breastfeeding moms returning to work, many workplaces are still well below acceptable levels of support. By working together to ensure adequate pumping conditions, moms and employers can create better workplaces and encourage moms in their career growth while maintaining their breastfeeding goals.