August 1-7 is designated each year as World Breastfeeding Week by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and the entire month of August is designated Missouri Breastfeeding Month. The theme for this year is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!” which showcases, facilitates and strengthens supportive practices that enable working women to continue to breastfeed.
Over 70% of Missouri mothers choose breastfeeding as the optimal form of infant feeding. When a mother returns to work following childbirth, she wants to be a productive employee and a good mother. Yet many of these mothers are concerned that returning to work will be an obstacle to their success.
Employers who provide lactation support for their employees reap benefits that impact the business’s bottom line.
- Cost Savings – $3 to $1 return on investment for worksite lactation programs
- Reduced Absenteeism – infants and mothers have less illness when breastfeeding continues
- Lower Health Care Costs – fewer doctor visits, hospital stays and prescriptions decreases health care costs
- Improved Employee Productivity and Retention – creates higher morale and greater employee loyalty
- Family Friendly Image – gives a competitive edge in recruiting and builds goodwill in the community
Providing a Lactation Support Program involves little investment of time and resources. The needs of breastfeeding employees are simple and a lactation support program can be implemented inexpensively.
These three simple components can make the difference for breastfeeding employees:
- A private place to express milk that is not a bathroom
- A flexible work schedule that allows time for expressing milk
- Supportive supervisors and staffIn 2010, the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act. The FLSA requires employers to provide reasonable unpaid break time and a private place for breastfeeding mothers to express milk while at work. For information on the “Break Time Requirement for Nursing Mothers” requirement under the FLSA go to www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS), in collaboration with the Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition, has implemented the Missouri “Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Program” to educate employers on the value of providing lactation support in the workplace and to recognize businesses that support their breastfeeding employees. Recognition is provided at three different levels: bronze, silver and gold.
Mothers going back to work also need support from their child care provider. The MDHSS and Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition also recognize child care providers in Missouri that provide support to their breastfeeding families and employees through the “Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care” award. To receive the award, child care providers must meet five criteria that aim to improve the support for breastfeeding women in the workforce.
For more information on how to support your breastfeeding employees or on Missouri breastfeeding initiatives go to health.mo.gov/living/families/wic/breastfeeding/index.php or contact your local health department.