The Big Issue
To continue breastfeeding, working mothers need the support of their employers.
Just Like Business, Breastfeeding is All About Supply and Demand
The amount of breastmilk a woman's body produces on an ongoing basis is determined by the amount of breastmilk that's used. Infants generally feed every two to three hours. When a woman is with her baby during the day, her milk supply replenishes each time she feeds her baby. So when a mother returns to work, she must be able to express breastmilk as often as her baby would breastfeed if they were together so that she can maintain an adequate milk supply. She also needs a safe and clean way to store the milk for her infant's use.
Many Women are Uncomfortable Talking to their Employers
Even though the community benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, it often feels like a very personal, private issue. Many women are unsure about how to talk to their employers about the need to pump breastmilk during the workday. Women may feel that after being absent on maternity leave, they shouldn't "rock the boat" or that asking for a private place or a modified break schedule will inconvenience their boss or co-workers. Some are even concerned that asking for basic accommodations will put their employment or future career opportunities at risk. When there is limited communication, women often don't realize that their employers and co-workers are generally happy to do what they can to ease their transition back to work. And few are aware of employers' requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide basic supports for nursing mothers.
If it had not been for the mothers' rooms here, I may not have even breastfed past the time I came back to work.
And Many Employers Don't Realize There's a Need
Because traditionally there hasn't been an open dialogue about breastfeeding, many employers aren't even aware that worksite lactation is important to their employees or that there's a need for support. When they learn how easy it is to create a worksite lactation program, most employers are happy to take the necessary small steps, such as providing a private space and flexible break schedule that allows time for pumping. Most employers feel strongly that they want to do right by their employees, and they appreciate the additional benefits breastfeeding offers, such as fewer sick days, increased employee loyalty and satisfaction, and reduced turnover.3
"Worksite lactation" is defined as pumping or nursing to extract or express milk while at work.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants should be fed breastmilk exclusively for the first six months of life, breastfeeding should continue for at least a year, and that human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding.4
Anything that we can do to support breastfeeding in the workplace is a great step in the right direction.