Employers should encourage breast-feeding

First Posted: 2/12/2015

A few weeks back, we discussed workplace wellness surrounding healthy eating.

If you recall, we discussed how workplaces could positively affect the health and wellness of their employees by promoting healthy eating. Some of these ways included forming a wellness committee, assessing vending machines to determine the number of healthy options currently available, meeting with vendors to determine additional healthy options that could be placed in machines, and putting healthy vending and meeting policies into place to make changes made to the environment sustainable long term.

When employee health is considered a priority to employers, there are many positive changes that can be made with minimal additional resources or time spent, that can then greatly impact the way health and wellness is perceived in the workplace.

This week, we want to continue to discuss workplace health.

The focus this week will be on breast-feeding in the workplace. It is a well-known fact that many mothers are returning to work after birth. It is also a fact that breast milk is the best first food for our infants.

Sadly the truth is that many mothers who are returning to work after birth do not have the support to continue to pump breast milk in their work setting and thus, stop using breast milk before they desired to do so. In order to help mothers meet their breast-feeding goals, we are asking workplaces to adapt policies and plans to support mothers once they are back after birth in the workplace setting.

What does this atmosphere of support look like?

Workplaces desiring to support their employees who have returned to work and desire to breast-feed can do a few, simple things to ensure an atmosphere that allows mothers to continue to breast-feed.

First, develop a policy of support. This includes that employees will be given a space and the time needed to pump during work. Normally around 15 minutes is needed for mothers to pump, three to four times per day and it is possible that an additional break may be needed during the workday to allow moms to maintain their supply of breast milk.

Employees should be encouraged to speak with their direct supervisor to make arrangements that make sense for all people concerned. The space that is needed for employees to pump does not have to be elaborate or large. Mothers need a clean space, privacy, access to electricity, a chair and a small table. Running water should be close by for cleaning of the space and breast pump parts after pumping is complete.

Many workplaces use an empty office space, a conference room that can be available to mothers with a sign placed to alert others not to enter, or a partitioned off area that is just a designated mother’s space. A space and time for pumping is fairly easy to set up with communication and cooperation by all and does not have to be a space that is only for this purpose, although it most certainly can be.

An atmosphere that allows employees to come back from leave after birth and gives them the confidence and ability to easily continue to provide breast milk for their child makes good sense for your business, for your employees, and for their families. Considering that breast-feeding support is the right choice and will only enhance, not take away from your business, should make the choice to create a supporting atmosphere easy to make.

To see those businesses and organizations that have already joined our team in support of breast-feeding, head to the Activate Allen County website (http://activateallencounty.com) and click on the Breastfeeding Support icon on the main page.

For questions and to learn how your business can support your employees while they are breast-feeding, call our office at 419-221-5035.

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