San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition (SDCBC) is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Awards! Nominate a Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace here.
The SDCBC has been promoting breastfeeding friendly workplace so mothers feel easier breastfeeding when return to work after giving birth. According to the US Department of Labor, 56% of women with children under three are employed outside the home. These women form an important part of our workforce. The benefits of lactation-friendly work environments to both employees and employers are readily documented by plenty of researches. Companies both large and small benefit from providing a lactation supporting program. Lactation supports can be simple and cost-effective. When the components are provided companies enjoy the biggest savings.
What makes a workplace breastfeeding friendly?
1. Privacy for milk expression
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view.
2. Flexible breaks and work options
Under the FLSA, employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The frequency of breaks needed will likely vary.
The FLSA requirement of break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk does not preempt Sate laws that provide greater protections employees (for example, providing compensated break time, providing break time for exempt employees, or providing break time beyond 1 year after the child’s birth).
Employees value information they receive during their pregnancy about continuing to breastfeed upon returning to work. Pamphlets, resources, lunchtime prenatal classes, and access to a lactation consultant can help employees feel more prepared.
Education helps employees understand why breastfeeding is important and how to continue breastfeeding when return to work. It helps a company’s supervisors and managers recognize the importance of accommodating breastfeeding employees. It also helps employers stay in compliance with the law and keeps the new mothers in the workforce.
Supportive policies and practices that enable women to successfully return to work and breastfeed send a message to all employees that breastfeeding is valued. Management can encourage supervisors to work with breastfeeding employees in making reasonable accommodation to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and can encourage other employees to exhibit a positive, accepting attitude.
Providing support is a temporary need for each breastfeeding employee. Once babies being eating solid foods at 6 months, milk expression requirements gradually diminish.
5. Written Policy
Mothers and employers agree that having a lactation policy made a huge difference.
“Before the policy, I had to search for rooms to borrow—some of which did not have locks,” said Nina C. Iwanaga, a mother and an employee at County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency. “After the policy, I felt I had a lot more support and knew of appropriate, secure rooms that I could use. I was even able to exceed my goals.”
Know a breastfeeding-friendly workplace? Nominate it here by MAY 15!
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo courtesy Mu-huan Chiang.