As more women have entered the workforce, the need for lactation support has increased, but is still not recognized as an important health benefit. This can not only have a negative effect on employees, but can also extend to their families.
Accommodations have been made over the years for non-essential needs such as smoking, including multiple break times and dedicated smoking areas. Originally it was a convenience; However, as we learn more about the negative health effects of smoking, companies continue to make these accommodations. Expressing breastmilk is a vital health benefit for both the breastfeeding parent and the infant whose primary source of nutrition is breastmilk.
Read more: This is what a breastfeeding-friendly workplace looks like
Many employees have had to make the difficult decision to leave the workforce due to lack or lack of parental leave, lack of a clean and safe breastfeeding space to express breast milk during the work, as well as the lack of break time to express breast milk throughout the day. the day. Many employees are relegated to shared restrooms to express their milk, monitored to take the time to express their breastmilk, and store their milk in a shared refrigerator that leaves their milk open to theft or at an insufficient storage temperature. For those who make the decision to continue working to help support their families, they must make the decision to switch to formula before they plan.
Many companies across the United States have recognized the health benefits for their employees and are seeing the benefits in the workplace. Working parents who have access to a space dedicated to breastfeeding have less absenteeism, better productivity, have a more positive opinion of their employer and, above all, are happier because they can continue to breastfeed their children and may also share responsibility with their wives or partners. In the wake of the Big Quit and Big Rehire, employees seeking potential job changes are seeking health benefits, including lactation rooms, as part of their long-term career options.
Read more: State of Maine extends breastfeeding benefits to thousands of employees
What do companies need to know to create a lactation space dedicated to their employees? The space doesn’t have to be big; however, it should be a room in which the employee feels safe and comfortable. Businesses should know what the local, state, and federal guidelines are for their area. This is important to ensure employers and employees comply.
What do you need to create a space dedicated to lactation? Here are some guidelines to help you organize your lactation space:
- Safety is essential. The room must be able to be locked for a singular space or with signage that lets others know if the room is occupied and provides privacy
- The room should be comfortable, regardless of its size. There must be adequate ventilation and make the employee feel comfortable
- The room should have one or more comfortable chairs so that the employee can relax while expressing breast milk or even so that they can breastfeed their child (if the child can come to the office during the day). There should also be a small table to hold an electric breast pump. Furniture should also be made of materials that are easy to clean, especially after COVID
- If possible, a hospital-grade breast pump should be made available to the employee, along with storage supplies or information about what the employee may need. At the very least, working electrical outlets near chairs and tables for employees bringing their own breast pumps.
- Adequate refrigeration of breast milk throughout the day. Collective refrigeration is not the best for storing breast milk. Expressed milk should be kept at a consistent temperature throughout the day to ensure it is safe to use once the parent is home.
- There should be shelving/storage available for employees to leave their gear and accessories throughout the working day. This makes it easier for them to keep the items they need throughout the day where they will be safe.
- There should be a sink and counter available for the employee to wash their hands and their equipment. Cleaning products should be provided to maintain the room and sanitize it as needed
- A room and equipment maintenance program should be established and followed. Breast milk is food and, as with any shared place, it should be cleaned daily for the health of the employee and their children.
- The decor should be relaxing and pleasant. Breastfeeding and expressing breastmilk can be a stressful time for some, and a comforting space can help ease that stress or discomfort.
- Offer information to new families to learn about family leave, local lactation support organizations or general breastfeeding or express information, including brochures and websites
Read more: Early in the morning, late at night: how this working mother juggles business and parenthood
Businesses can also contact lactation support companies to help with everything from room design and education to support information and regular equipment maintenance.