As World Breastfeeding Week rolls around, it’s a good opportunity to talk about why it’s so important for businesses and workplaces to support nursing moms, along with easy ways to do so.
Becoming a mother is no easy feat. There are long days, sleepless nights, and exhausting weeks. In Canada, most working women who are employed with a business are entitled to one year of maternity leave. This is an amazing and much-needed opportunity to be home with a new baby. Yet in the United States and other countries, many moms are back to work likely before they are quite ready. Some are back working when their babies are less than one month old. And because many women choose to breastfeed exclusively and beyond the one year mark, moms all over the world are back to work while their little ones are still breastfeeding.
Supporting breastfeeding moms in the workplace has numerous benefits, not only for the moms and children, but also for society as a whole, and, lastly, for the mom’s place of employment. A recent Unicef study found that working mothers with adequate maternity benefits, which include a breastfeeding-supportive workplace, report much greater job satisfaction and loyalty to their employers. The same study shows that because breastfed children tend to fall sick less often than those who are not breastfed, their mothers are absent from work less often as well. All of these contribute to higher productivity in the workplace, which in turns benefits the businesses and larger economies in general.
Additionally, supporting breastfeeding moms ensures that these women will have financial independence. We’ve seen time and time again that this financial autonomy is crucial to a women’s ability to provide for her children and create a healthy home. This gives women the ability to care for themselves and their children if they should ever find themselves in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Having a stable job, supportive workplace and financial autonomy can make it that much easier to leave a violent relationship.
So, how does a workplace go about ensuring they are supporting nursing moms in the best possible way? There are some simple and easy ways every business, organization or workplace can help encourage and support moms to breastfeed.
Simple Ways to Support Working Moms Who Breastfeed
1. Have a comfortable, designated place for moms to pump.
No one wants to sit in a cramped bathroom stall pumping, or have to go out to their car. Set up a private room or quiet space for women to pump in. Ensure they’ll have to access to this space at regular intervals throughout the day, which you can discuss and set up prior if the room is also used for another purpose. Some of the important features this area or room should have include:
- Comfortable chair
- Electrical outlet
- Proper lighting
- A door that locks
2. Provide access to a refrigerator.
Expressed milk needs to be refrigerated if it will be sitting out for hours. Provide women with access and space to a cold storage space, ideally a refrigerator, so they can safely store breastmilk.
3. Ensure there is Flexibility in the Workplace.
Parenting a baby is hard, especially if mothers need to be back in the workforce while their little ones are still not sleeping well, are still feeding frequently, or while moms are still exhausted. Providing women with flexibility in terms of workspace, such as working from home when need be, can be beneficial for both of you. It can increase productivity on the working mother’s end (no need to commute, less fatigue, etc.) and create a happier and more productive relationship between her and the workplace. Providing the option to work part-time or ease slowly back into full-time work can also be extremely helpful.
4. Make sure she gets enough breaks.
Breastfeeding moms should not have to use their breaks and lunch period to pump. Lactation breaks should go above and beyond whatever regular breaks they normally have.
5. Support her.
Having the support of her employer as well as co-workers can make all the difference for a working mom who is breastfeeding. A positive attitude from others will help her feel more comfortable with taking necessary breaks as well as increase her confidence with her decision to breastfeed and her ability to continue working while breastfeeding.
6. Identify community resources for breastfeeding help.
Print out a list of local breastfeeding support and resources to help moms in the workplace. These may include:
- Local health professionals, such as breastfeeding support workers at the local hospital
- Certified Lactation Consultant
- Local La Leche League
- Other community organizations
While we mainly work toward supporting women and children, we also recognize the importance that dads play in their children’s lives. See why it’s important that workplaces also create flexible environments for dads.