Make Work and Breastfeeding Work For You
August 15th, 2014
by Dr. Nancy C. Lee
Director, Office on Women’s Health
Meet Rebecca Flores, a working mother of two. Unable to breastfeed her first child for as long as she wanted, she was determined to continue breastfeeding her second son after her maternity leave ended.
When she returned to work as an hourly employee at a department store, there wasn’t a designated place to pump. Rebecca worked with her managers to create a solution. Together they created a space that provides employees with a private, comfortable place to pump milk. And, as an extra benefit to the company, customers can use the space to breastfeed their babies while shopping.
I applaud Rebecca and her employer! Rebecca took the initiative for herself and her family, and the results are helping co-workers, customers, and their kids, too. And her employer understood that supporting breastfeeding makes good business sense. Employees who nurse their babies take fewer sick days and are more loyal to their companies. And they often return from maternity leave sooner.
While many businesses want to provide time and space for nursing moms, it’s not always easy for them to figure out how. Now that many employers are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who breastfeed, it’s even more important to help companies think creatively about solutions. With that in mind, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH) launched Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions. On this website you can find videos, photos, and stories from all kinds of workplaces — including Rebecca’s — who overcame time and space constraints in simple, low-cost ways. A little effort and creativity can build a better work environment for women who want to meet both their breastfeeding goals and performance goals at work.
If you are pregnant, now is a great time to talk to your
employer about your breastfeeding goals when you return to work. Share this online resource, and let them know that you’d like to work together to make a plan that benefits you both. If you feel awkward talking about this with your boss, OWH has ideas to help you get the conversation going. If you are about to return to work after having a baby or, like Rebecca, have recently returned to work — it’s not too late! Having an open, honest conversation with your employer is key.
I hope these new resources from OWH can help you with these discussions. We want to support you and your employer. Together, you can make a plan to meet your breastfeeding goals.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit our Breastfeeding section on womenshealth.gov. It offers tips and suggestions, as well as advice on finding support. If you’d like to talk to a trained lactation specialist, I encourage you to call the OWH Helpline at 800-994-9662, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Our specialists can help you with common breastfeeding issues.
Happy National Breastfeeding Month to all!