As a part of our Louisiana Workplace Breastfeeding Support Program, we created new handouts for both employers and employees. In the handouts, we discuss what it means to be a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, which is one that understands the importance of breastfeeding and supports its employees by providing privacy and flexibility to pump and store breastmilk.
We know that breastfeeding for one year equals a lifetime of benefits for both the mom and baby. If a mother chooses to breastfeed, she needs to be able to pump breastmilk during the workday in order to keep up her milk supply. However, many mothers are afraid to speak to their employers about these needs, so many stop breastfeeding soon after returning to work.
It is simple. Babies who are fed formula are sicker overall than breastfed babies. They are more likely to suffer from diarrhea, ear infections, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity. They are also at higher risk for respiratory infections, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding is important for moms because it lowers their risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Not only is breastfeeding good for families, but it is also good for business. Workplaces that support breastfeeding see lower healthcare costs and lower employee turnover. If a workplace is not meeting a mom’s needs, she might decide to stay home with her baby or switch jobs, instead of coming back to work. Not having to hire new employees saves a business on training costs and orientation time. Parents of breastfed babies are also less likely to miss work due to a sick child. For every $1 a business spends on workplace breastfeeding support, they could see a $3 return on their bottom line. Plus, mothers who have workplace breastfeeding support are more likely to return to work with higher morale, higher job happiness, and better productivity.
If the above benefits are not enough reasons to become a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act now requires that employers of hourly staff support their breastfeeding employees at work. Under this law, employers must give breastfeeding women time to pump breastmilk at work and a private clean space to do so that is not a bathroom. The law in Louisiana extends this right to public school teachers.
Following this law is possible in every work setting, and we want to help workplaces who don’t know how to put this law in place.
by Haley Binder