Normalising breastfeeding at work is good for everyone, according to a new report published by the World Breastfeeding Trends. The report says that giving new mothers the facilities to express milk at the office allows them to return to work earlier, thus benefitting their respective companies.
The Guardian reports that adopting breastfeeding-friendly policies can help business. According to research, thousands of women in the UK who return to part-time roles after a career break found it difficult to work longer hours even if they wanted to, simply because their workplace lacked the flexibility that would allow them to combine work with family.
Lactating mothers need to breastfeed or pump their breast milk regularly or her milk supply will suffer, causing her to be unable to continue feeding. Without adequate support systems in place, it’s no wonder that the UK has the world’s lowest breastfeeding rate (only 0.5% of women in the UK breastfeed their children until they are a year old).
Studies have shown that women are more likely to stay in their jobs if they get proper breastfeeding support
This lack of breastfeeding support in the workplace is not limited to the UK. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), almost 25% of all countries do not provide breastfeeding breaks in the office, Especially in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The ILO defines a breastfeeding-friendly workplace as one that provides their employees with:
- comfortable, private facilities to express breast milk
- access to a fridge to store their milk
- a clean and safe environment
- daycare facilities and family-friendly working time arrangements for both women and men
This would only involve limited cost on the part of the employers, in terms of the employee’s time and the cost of the infrastructure needed. And the benefits are well-documented: studies have shown that women are more likely to stay in their jobs if they get proper breastfeeding support.
On the next page: how to talk to your employer about breastfeeding in the workplace.
Talking to your employer about breastfeeding isn’t exactly the easiest conversation to have. Here are some tips from Medela on how to get breastfeeding support in your workplace:
1. Talk to your coworkers
Get the input from fellow moms to see what you can expect. Ask them how supportive management is of breastfeeding, and how they pumped at work.
2. Talk to your HR department
Larger companies might have a wellness program in place that may help you.
3. Talk to your boss
While you’re on maternity leave, write your boss an email about your plans to continue breastfeeding. If necessary, you can get a letter from your doctor recommending you to breastfeed.
Ask your boss how the company can support your breastfeeding, and let them know about your schedule and your need for a private space. Remember that your boss might not know anything about breastfeeding and why it’s so important, so you can also tell them about how it will help your baby, your family, and your performance at work.
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