Guest Contributor: Angela Deal, Healthiest Maryland Businesses
Angela is the Regional Coordinator (Charles, Calvert, & St. Mary’s) for Healthiest Maryland Businesses (HMB). HMB is a partner organization of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership and provides assistance to local businesses that want to create a healthier workplace for their employees.
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August is World Breastfeeding Month!
Why offer support for breastfeeding in the workplace?
According to the CDC’s Guide to Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies, mothers are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. labor force. In 2012, 57% of all mothers with infants were employed. Working full-time outside the home is related to lower rates of breastfeeding and shorter duration of breastfeeding. This is unfortunate, because breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers, babies-and employers.
Research shows that support for nursing moms at work benefits not only families but employers as well by improving productivity, enhancing the employer’s public image and decreasing absenteeism, health care costs, and employee turnover.
How can your business support breastfeeding mothers?
Make your business breastfeeding-friendly by offering some of these employee benefits and services:
- Develop a corporate policy to support breastfeeding women.
- Provide a designated private space for women to breastfeed or express milk.
- Allow flexible scheduling to support milk expression during work.
- Offer mothers options for returning to work, such as teleworking, part-time work, or extended maternity leave.
- Provide on-site or nearby child care.
- Provide a high-quality, multi-user breast pump
- Allow babies at the workplace.
- Offer professional lactation management services and support.
Factors to Consider When Setting Up a Workplace Lactation Program
- Population: The number of women who need support, the resources available, and the settings in which female employees work.
- Space: A lactation room can take many forms, from a converted office or private space to a formal nursing mothers’ room. This space cannot be a bathroom.
- Time: Employers can use many different strategies to make sure mothers have enough time to breastfeed or express milk. Examples include flexible work schedules and locations, break times for pumping, on-site child care services, and job sharing.
- Support: Educating all employees on the important benefits of breastfeeding creates a supportive atmosphere for employees who breastfeed. Involve human resources managers, employee health coordinators, insurers, and health care providers in supporting breastfeeding as part of an overall employee wellness program.
Need more information?
The Business Case For Breastfeeding from the Health Resources and Services Administration Program offers several resources, including tool kits and guidelines, to help employers understand the benefits of making accommodations for breastfeeding mothers.
National Business Group on Health: Investing in Workplace Breastfeeding Programs and Policies is a toolkit that covers the essential information employers need to understand the components of breastfeeding programs, getting started, and measuring success. Valuable resources include breastfeeding program options, employer case studies, and materials for employees.
The Making It Work Toolkit is an online resource for breastfeeding mothers developed by the New York State Department of Health with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children returning to work or school. The toolkit is designed to provide assistance to breastfeeding mothers, as well as tools and information for businesses and families. A helpful Checklist for Employers is included in the Making it Work: For Employers section to assist supervisors’ plans for employee lactation accommodations requests.
SPOTLIGHT ON HMBs
Joining Healthiest Maryland Businesses is free and workplaces receive many benefits for signing up including: access to training, information, consultation, technical assistance and more!
This July, three HMBs were awarded funding to support Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace initiatives – Congratulations to the Charles County Department of Health, St. Mary’s County Department of Health, and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital!