According to the CDC, working mothers are both less likely to start breastfeeding and more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier than nonworking mothers. Breastfeeding has been shown to improve the health of moms and babies, but working moms have a harder time finding opportunities to breastfeed and pump. By making this specific type of support available for your employees returning from maternity leave, you’ll be encouraging a healthful choice for moms and babies, providing a mother-friendly environment, and allowing your employees to be more productive. So, what does this support look like?
Provide a comfortable space
Although it is mandated by the Break Time For Nursing Mothers Law that you provide a private nursing room if your business meets certain criteria, be sure you are offering more than a storage-closet-turned-pumping-station solution. Your employees should feel comfortable during this very personal and important time. Your lactation room should be accessible to all parts of your office, and you should have multiple rooms available if you operate on a large campus. Provide seating options, such as couches and desks with chairs, to allow your new moms to choose the setup that works best for them. Make sure that your lactation room has multiple accessible outlets so your employees can easily plug in their breast pumps.
Be cognizant of back-to-back meetings
Because your breastfeeding employees will need to pump every few hours, back-to-back meetings can be problematic. Remind your managers to make sure their teams are being thoughtful about scheduling meetings with new moms. Help teams find that balance between making your newly returned employee feel comfortable and supported at work while also providing a professional and “normal” work environment. She’s probably excited to be at work with her team again and will appreciate the familiar routine of your work environment.
Refrigeration and sink access
Your nursing mothers will be pumping at work with their breast pumps. This means they will have to not only immediately store the milk they pump, but they’ll also need to consequently wash and dry the breast pump parts. Your lactation room should either include or be near a sink, refrigerator, and freezer. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable for your employees to be toting around milk and/or breast pump parts between kitchens or restrooms.
When possible, allow your new moms to work from home. Being able to continue breastfeeding without the middle step of pumping can go a long way in maintaining breastfeeding relationships and improving health outcomes for mom and baby. Finding the appropriate balance of schedule flexibility between your new moms and your organization will benefit both you and your employees.
Pumping at work can be an uncomfortable experience for an employee. It’s an intense intersection of her career and personal life, and there’s not always an easy or clear path toward the best solution. If you can provide support in a delicate and respectful way, you’ll be earning huge points in your employee’s book. She wants to do what is best for herself and her baby’s health, while at the same time returning to work and continuing her career. By offering her the tools and environment to do both, you’re empowering her to return to work and stay at work with confidence.
Looking for additional ways to support your pregnant employees and new moms? Download our ebook “How To Help Your Employees Return From Maternity Leave”.