Breastfeeding For Businesses
Breastfeeding Benefits SocietyThe nation benefits when mothers breastfeed.
- Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented
- The United States would also save $13 billion per year because medical care costs are lower for fully breast-fed infants than for never-breastfed infants
- Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations
- Breastfeeding also contributes to a more productive workforce because mothers miss less work to care for sick infants. Employer medical costs are also lower
What Can Businesses Do?
Start and maintain high-quality breastfeeding support programs for employees. Breastfeeding support requires few resources. Companies both large and small benefit from providing a breastfeeding support program. When the following simple, cost-effective components are provided, companies enjoy the biggest savings.
Privacy to Express Milk
If women do not work in a private office, a small, private space (as small as 4’ x 5’) can be set up as a lactation room. A woman produces milk on a constant basis. This means she needs to express milk approximately every 3 hours to maintain a healthy milk supply and relieve uncomfortable fullness while separated from her infant. Milk can be refrigerated or stored in a personal cooler to provide to the baby later. Some companies also provide a hospital-grade electric breast pump that makes pumping quicker and more efficient. Employees should never be asked to express milk or breastfeed in a restroom. Breast milk is food, and restrooms are an unsanitary place to prepare food. In addition, electrical outlets are usually unavailable and it is difficult and uncomfortable managing breast pump equipment in a toilet stall.
Each milk expression session usually takes around 15 minutes plus time to get to and from the lactation room. Breastfeeding employees typically need no more than an hour per work day to express milk, which can easily be divided between usual paid breaks and the meal period. If milk expression takes longer than expected, a common solution is to allow employees the flexibility to come in early or stay late, or to use a portion of their lunch period, to make up time.
Supportive policies and practices that enable women to successfully return to work and breastfeed send a message to all employees that breastfeeding is valued. Management can encourage supervisors to work with breastfeeding employees in making reasonable accommodations to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and can encourage other employees to exhibit a positive, accepting attitude. Providing support is a temporary need for each breastfeeding employee. Once babies begin eating solid foods at 6 months, milk expression requirements gradually diminish.
Employees value information they receive during their pregnancy about continuing to breastfeed upon returning to work. Pamphlets, resources, lunchtime prenatal classes, and access to a lactation professional can help employees feel more prepared.
- Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions
- U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #73: FLSA Protections for Employees to Pump Breast Milk at Work
- Womenshealth.gov has resources to personalize breastfeeding support for the unique needs of your company.
- The Business Case for Breastfeeding : Easy Steps to Supporting Breastfeeding Employees