Support for Breastfeeding Workers
Support for breastfeeding workers includes a range of benefits:
- writing corporate policies to support employees who are breastfeeding;
- teaching employees about breastfeeding;
- providing designated private space for breastfeeding or expressing milk;
- allowing flexible scheduling during work;
- providing high-quality breast pumps;
- and offering professional lactation management services and support.
Other policies outlined throughout this report also help to support breastfeeding employees, including giving them flexible options for returning to work, such as teleworking, part-time work, and extended paid parental leave; and providing on-site or near-site child care.
Benefits to EmployersFootnote # 1
- Increases retention, reducing turnover costs
- Provides a three to one return on investment, largely from health care costs savings
- Reduces employee absenteeism
Benefits to ChildrenFootnote # 2
- Reduces infant mortality
- Breastfeeding lowers child’s risk of ear infections, respiratory infections, diarrhea, dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma (young children), obesity, certain childhood cancers, and types 1 and 2 diabetes
- Increases parent-child bonding
- May increase IQ
- Reduces doctor and hospital visits
Benefits to Parents/Families
- Breastfeeding lower mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetesFootnote # 3
- Improves family economic securityFootnote # 4
Research or Recommendations from National Organizations
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Family Physicians and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and breastfeeding with complementary foods through at least the first year. All three recommend that breastfeeding continue as long as mutually desired by mother and child.
In 2022, Congress passed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act, which updates the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision of the Affordable Care Act. The PUMP Act goes into effect in April 2023. Under the Act, employers of all sizes are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a clean, private space for lactating workers of all genders to express milk for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. The pumping space cannot be a bathroom. Additionally, the PUMP Act allows employees to file a lawsuit against an employer that violates the law, and clarifies that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime if an employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.
Employers must also provide break time to pump. The law does not require employers to have a dedicated, permanent lactation space or provide payment for pumping breaks.
In The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Steps for Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite, the US Department of Health outlines four ways to support women who are breastfeeding while working.Footnote # 5
- Offer privacy to express milk. If a permanent, dedicated lactation room or a private office is not available, a small, private space can be set up for a temporary lactation room. Employees who are breastfeeding must express milk approximately every three hours to maintain a healthy supply for their infant, relieve discomfort and prevent mastitis, an infection in the breast. Milk must be stored in a refrigerator or cooler. Many companies provide a small refrigerator and/or a hospital- grade electric breast pump that makes pumping quicker and more efficient. In addition, electrical outlets should be readily available. Employees should never be asked to express milk or breastfeed in a restroom.
- Provide flexible breaks. Pumping sessions usually takes around 15 minutes plus time to get to and from the lactation room. Breastfeeding employees typically need no more than an hour per work day to express milk. If milk expression takes longer than expected, which can happen for a variety of reasons, many employers allow employees the flexibility to come in early or stay late, or to use a portion of their lunch period to make up time.
- Offer education and expert guidance. Providing breastfeeding employees with access to resources and a lactation consultant can help them feel more prepared to breastfeed and allow them to address any issues they have while trying to initiate or continue breastfeeding.
- Provide ongoing support. Supportive policies that enable women to successfully breastfeed while working send a message to all employees that breastfeeding is valued. Leaders should encourage supervisors to work with breastfeeding employees in making reasonable accommodations to help them reach their breastfeeding goals. Management should encourage other employees to exhibit a positive, accepting attitude.
Range of Practices in the United States
- Approximately 49 percent of workplaces have a dedicated lactation/mothers’ room, and 11 percent of workplaces offer lactation support services, including counseling and education.Footnote # 6
Location: HQ in Asheville, offices throughout NC • Year Founded: 2000 • Number of Employees: 400
When Aeroflow Healthcare, Inc. announced an expansion of its maternity leave policy in November 2017, it was more than a nice, new perk for Megan Prestridge. It was life-changing news.
At nearly five months pregnant with their first child, Megan and her husband were struggling to figure out how they could financially afford to stay in their apartment once the baby arrived. At the time, Aeroflow, where Megan had worked for about nine months, offered two weeks of paid maternity leave. Megan knew she would need to take about a month of unpaid leave to care for her newborn on top of what the company previously offered.
“When I found out I was pregnant, it was a really tough time for my husband and I,” says Megan, a breastpump specialist for the durable medical equipment provider. “We just didn’t have enough.”
With both sets of parents in town, the couple decided they’d give up their lease in April when the baby was due, and “hop from parent to parent until I could go back to work.”
Then, Asheville-based Aeroflow announced its expanded maternity leave policy—from two weeks to six weeks for maternity leave, and two weeks of parental leave for fathers. That meant Megan would now get six fully paid weeks of leave.
“It was amazing. It was such a relief,” Megan says.
Aeroflow came through again when Megan was put on bed rest 27 weeks into her pregnancy. Her team leader allowed her to work from home until her daughter, Kara, was born on March 25 at 37 weeks. Thanks to the expanded leave policy and the ability to work from home instead of using leave while on bed rest, Megan and her husband were not only able to stay in their apartment, they were able to move to a new space perfect for their family of three.
The experience has made Megan, who returned back to work from leave in late May, incredibly loyal to Aeroflow and proud to work for a company that cares for its employees.
“I feel like by changing their policy for parents, Aeroflow was really living its motto: ensuring quality care from first breath of life to last,” she says. “They took care of my baby from her very first breath.”
Daniel Polich, a senior recruiter for Aeroflow, helped the company navigate the creation and implementation of several new family-friendly policies over the past year. He says incorporating family-friendly practices is a conscious choice for Aeroflow as it experiences rapid growth.
“We’ve been listed as an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company…It has been a whirlwind,” Polich says. “And as we grow, we’re working on employee engagement and culture.”
Recognizing employees as whole people with families and lives outside of work is an important part of that culture, Polich says.
In addition to its expanded maternity leave, which allows for paid leave following birth or adoption, the company of 400 employees nationwide added the following new policies: reimbursement for adoption costs of up to $5,000 per child; reimbursement of up to $300 for a birth or postpartum doula for families who have a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child; free breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies for eligible employees who decide to breastfeed; and one year of free diapers for the first year of a child’s life or date of adoption or foster placement.
Additionally, Aeroflow built a pumping room for breastfeeding mothers at its Asheville headquarters, which is open to both employees and Aeroflow patients. With a comfy chair, a mini fridge, a sink, and a changing table, it’s a space that feels welcoming to moms and their babies, Megan says.
“I use the pumping room twice every day,” she says. “It’s really comfortable. And on Fridays, my mom, who takes care of the baby, brings her there to feed. We can change her, and I feel like she’s welcome here.”
As a parent who works at Aeroflow, Megan says she feels valued, which makes her want to plan a career at the company she loves.
“I haven’t felt the need to look for something else, and I have a lot of friends who are mothers and, depending on their employer, they are looking elsewhere, or they have to leave their job completely, which means they don’t get to follow their career path,” she says. “I feel like (Aeroflow) values me, and I feel like they value me as an employee and as a mom.”
Attracting and retaining talent, along with increasing employee engagement, was a definite motivator for the company, and it’s a strategy that’s worked, Polich says.
Sample Benefits at Aeroflow Healthcare, Inc.
- Six paid weeks of maternity leave and two paid weeks of paternity leave following a birth or adoption
- Reimbursement of adoptions costs for up to 50 percent or $5,000
- Reimbursement of up to $300 for use of a birth or postpartum doula
- A dedicated lactation facility for mothers who wish to breastfeed or express milk
- A company contributed 401K retirement plan
- A one-year free subscription to diapers through the company’s “Diaper Club” for the first year of a child’s life or adoption placement
- Breast pump and breastfeeding supplies for mothers who wish to breastfeed their child
- Health, dental, and vision insurance and optional life insurance
- Paid vacation, sick and paid time off (after 90 days of employment)
- United States Breastfeeding Committee. “Workplace Accommodations to Support and Protect Breastfeeding.” May 2010. http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/p/cm/ld/fid=196 Return to footnote #1 referrer
- North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf Return to footnote #2 referrer
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Breastfeeding Programs and Policies, Breastfeeding Uptake, and Maternal Health Outcomes in Developed Countries.” July 18, 2018. https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/topics/breastfeeding/research Return to footnote #3 referrer
- Weimer, John. “The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis.” U.S. Department of Agriculture. March 2001. http://www.aeped.es/sites/default/files/6-economic_benefits.pdf Return to footnote #4 referrer
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. “The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Steps for Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite.” 2008. https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/documents/bcfb_business-case-for-breastfeeding-for-business-managers.pdf Return to footnote #5 referrer
- Society for Human Resource Management. “2018 Employee Benefits: The Evolution of Benefits.” April 2018. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf Return to footnote #6 referrer