Breastfeeding and the Workplace

In the United States, the number of working women increases yearly. As the number of working mothers increases, so does concern over how employers can best support them. After a certain point (such as after maternity leave), most working parents must decide whether to continue breastfeeding or begin using formula.  Well-respected institutions, health care professionals, and public health officials have begun to strongly support breastfeeding; the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that recommends breastfeeding for at least 6 months.1 Employers are becoming more supportive of breastfeeding, due in part to the realization that breastfeeding can help their businesses.

Benefits for Businesses

The benefits of breastfeeding for businesses include the following:  

  • Breast-milk contains antibodies that protect infants from certain bacteria and viruses, which leads to fewer illnesses. Fewer sicknesses for the child means fewer absences for the working mother, which ultimately leads to greater productivity for the company. One study found that non-breastfeeding mothers were absent from the worksite three times as often (due to babies' illnesses) as breastfeeding mothers.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the health care costs of the employee. Breastfeeding not only makes infants healthier, but also helps mothers return to pre-pregnancy weight quicker and leads to a reduced risk of osteoporosis and pre-menopausal breast cancer.2
  • Breastfeeding women who are supported by their employers often report higher loyalty, happiness, and productivity, all of which  support successful companies.1
  • Employers actually save money by allowing their employees to return to work while breastfeeding, as there is less turnover and fewer losses of skilled employees due to childbirth.3 Companies then do not  have to spend additional money on training new employees and are able to pay for a shorter maternity leave.

Benefits for Mothers

The benefits of continuing to breastfeed after returning to work include the following:

  • They save money because they do not have to buy formula.
  • They are providing the best nutrition for their child.
  • The miss less work (because breastfed-babies get sick less often than formula-fed babies).
  • They are able to maintain  the special bond and closeness of breastfeeding despite being separated.
  • They are able to continue breastfeeding for longer because they do not cease lactation.

Deciding to Continue to Breastfeed

There are many steps to take after deciding to continue to breastfeed while employed, which include the following:

  • Communicate with your employer. In the United States, the Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide mothers of children younger than 1 year break time and a private place to pump their breast milk other than a bathroom.3 Make sure that there is an appropriate, safe place to store your breast milk throughout the day.
  • Establish a good milk supply after the baby is born and before the mother returns to work or school. This will make it much easier to maintain the milk supply when mother and child are separated.
  • Pump multiple times a day, every 3 hours is the recommended amount. Milk supply can diminish if you do not pump frequently enough, so it is important to remember to pump at work.1
  • Find a well-trained daytime caregiver who shares your commitment to breastfeeding to ensure that the child will be properly cared for throughout the day.

Breastfeeding at work is a great way to continue to provide the best nutrition for the child while keeping the bond between mother and baby.

 

References

1. “How Breastfeeding Benefits You and Your Baby." BabyCenter .http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc?page=1

2. “Breastfeeding State Laws.” NCSL: National Conference of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx

3. “Breastfeeding After You Return to Work.” Breastfeeding and Working. Workandpump.com

Last Updated 17 February 2015.

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