Did you know you can reduce employee absenteeism and health care costs, while boosting employee
retention, productivity, and morale, just by supporting nursing mothers?
Women with young children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and most new mothers return to work when their babies are just 12 weeks old[i].
Helping mothers continue to breastfeed after returning to work makes good business sense. It’s also Oregon law.
Breastfeeding keeps babies healthy and boosts their immunity. Mothers who formula-feed their babies miss work three times as often as breastfeeding mothers.
Breastfeeding is also good for the long-term health of employees and their children. It reduces children’s risks for obesity, diabetes, asthma, and allergies; while reducing mothers’ risks for obesity, osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancers.
Walk the Talk
Following the law is easy. For every four hours worked, provide breastfeeding mothers with 30 minutes of unpaid break time to express milk. Provide them with a private location—not a restroom or toilet stall—that is near their work area. The employee needs to let you know she plans to express milk at work, attempt to take breaks at normal break and meal-times, and should use flex-time to make up for any work-time missed.
To really make things go smoothly and quickly, HealthScaping NorthWest can assist you in developing your own written policy and practices.
Because breastfeeding is so important to employee health and satisfaction, many employers choose to create a dedicated ‘Mother’s Room’ equipped with:
- Comfortable chair and footstool
- Electrical outlet
- Small table or counter
- Sink with running water
- Sanitary hand and surface wipes
- Motivational posters and books
Employers can apply for designation as a ‘Breastfeeding Mother Friendly Employer.’
High-grade breast pumps are efficient, save time, and more comfortable to use, but they can cost $200 or more. In your employee benefits package, include reimbursement for breast-pumps as a durable medical device or reimburse the rental of a hospital-grade pump.
Purchasing a hospital-grade multi-user pump and installing it in the ‘Mother’s Room’ is another way to save money as an employer and make expressing milk faster and more convenient for employees.
Providing coverage for lactation classes and lactation consultants will also help new families get breastfeeding off to a healthy start.
The Bottom Line
Workplaces have an important role in supporting breastfeeding, and the benefits accrue both ways.
For every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there were 2,033 extra physician visits, 212 extra hospitalization days, and 609 extra prescriptions for three illnesses alone – ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infection[ii].
CIGNA insurance studied the results of enrolling 343 employees in a lactation support program, and found annual savings of $240,000 in health care costs, 62 percent fewer prescriptions, and $60,000 savings in reduced absenteeism[iii].
The next time you review your workplace wellness programs, make sure they include world-class support for breastfeeding mothers.
[i] Oregon Health Authority. Breastfeeding: Workplace Support. (2013). http://public.health.oregon.gov/HEALTHYPEOPLEFAMILIES/BABIES/BREASTFEEDING/Pages/workplace.aspx
[ii] Ball T & Wright A. (1999). Health care costs of formula- feeding in the first year of life. Pediatrics, 103 (4), 871-876.
[iii] Dickson V, Hawkes C, Slusser W, Lange L, & Cohen R. (2000). The positive impact of a corporate lactation program on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates: help for the working mother. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at the Annual Seminar for Physicians, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and La Leche League International, on July 21, 2000.
- A Baby-Friendly State: How California is Breaking Free of Booby Traps (momsrising.org)
- Military Mothers Get Room On Base For Breastfeeding (huffingtonpost.com)
- Merkley intros bill on breastfeeding at work (ktvz.com)