When Facebook recently announced that they would be expanding their parental leave policy to cover four paid months for all paid employees worldwide, many workers rejoiced. And many recognized that even if all U.S. companies were to incorporate this policy, we would still be behind in terms of worldwide paid family leave policies. Most countries have mandated paid time off for new mothers. In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country that does not require paid time off. While many employers would like to offer this benefit, they simply can’t afford to cover extended paid time off, in addition to the cost of a temporary worker. Our current economic system does not support this extended paid time off.
At Healthy Monadnock, we won’t be writing new policies for our government, but we will support you and your business in making your business more family friendly. One simple and effective way to do this is through a comprehensive breast feeding policy. Supporting mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies can help the baby, the mother, and your business.
Healthier Babies. According to the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, nursing a baby (instead of feeding him or her formula) provides:
- An ideal balance of nutrients for the human infant that are easily absorbed and digested.
- Immune factors and anti-infective properties.
- Fewer allergies for the baby.
- The ability for babies to regulate their own food intake.
It also helps the mother by completing the natural reproductive cycle by promoting involution of the uterus. Best of all, breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and infant.
Making it Easier on Mom. Some Monadnock Region businesses and organizations (such as the Cheshire County Offices, W.S. Badger, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene) are keenly aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding and are providing private places for employee moms to easily express their milk to feed their babies later, or a place to actually breastfeed their babies. The County offices, for example, recently converted a vacant room into a quiet room for mothers to nurse their babies; the space is open to the public as well as employees.
And what is in it for the employer? Research shows that breastfeeding policies can be implemented for very little investment, and the return-on-investment includes less absenteeism (breastfeeding women are less likely to be absent from work to tend a sick child); improved worker productivity, morale, and loyalty; and decreased staff turnover (allowing a woman to breastfeed or express breast milk at work increases the chances of her returning to work after childbirth). Studies all show that companies and organizations with breastfeeding friendly policies are viewed favorably by employees and potential employees.
What does a breastfeeding-friendly workplace look like? There are a range of steps you can take to make the workplace more family-friendly and easier for moms to continue breastfeeding their infants once they return to work:
- Create a breastfeeding policy: Breastfeeding policies abound on the internet, but few they should be tailored to your organization or business. You may wish to have your company lawyer review it before implementing. Some points in the policy to consider include: flexible time schedule to accommodate breastfeeding/pumping; education to all employees about the benefits of breastfeeding; encouraging network of women to support each other when working and breastfeeding.
- Find an appropriate space: Businesses and organizations with employees of childbearing age can easily create a breastfeeding policy and quiet room in an empty office or other space. If there is no space available, modifications can easily be made to existing spaces with locks for office doors, “do not disturb” signage, etc. While this is not ideal, it is a great step in recognizing and supporting breastfeeding moms in the workplace.
- Know the essentials to a breastfeeding location: A comfortable chair with supportive arms (for breastfeeding) and a small table/chair/electrical outlet for expressing breast milk; signage for privacy; a hygienically clean baby changing station; sink or close to water to wash hands.
- Create more than bare minimum: Include refrigeration facilities (for expressed breast milk); a radio or CD player for relaxation; and information/posters around the workplace promoting breastfeeding.
Learn more about creating a breastfeeding-friendly workplace by contacting Healthy Monadnock or the Monadnock Region’s Community Coalition for the Promotion of Breastfeeding.