Friday, March 30, 2007

Workplace Lactation Programs

Successful lactation programs can increase productivity among mothers of infants, ensure that members of the female workforce return to work after a successful pregnancy and establishment of breastfeeding, and foster a family friendly environment. In addition, lactation programs that allow working mothers to breastfeed longer can vastly improve infants' health thereby decreasing absenteeism of mothers taking time off to care for sick infants and the cost of health care claims for infants.

Components of a successful lactation program include:
  • Access to a private, calming space to express milk. This could be an unused office or a designated mother's room. The room should lock from the inside, have a comfortable place to pump with access to an electric outlet, and a sink.
  • Time for moms to express breast milk. Most mothers working an 8 hour day will require three 15 minute breaks. Breastfeeding mothers should pump or breastfeed approximately every 2 to 4 hours.
  • Ideally, breastfeeding mothers will have access to their own refrigerator space to store breastmilk, although refrigeration or separation of breastmilk from other refrigerated foods is not always necessary.
Additionally, some employers are able to provide employees access to lactation consultants, either through the company's health insurance provider or through a company sponsored Employee Assistance Program. Other companies may provide employees with discounts on commercial grade breast pumps that can otherwise run over $300 or provide a hospital grade pump to be shared by multiple mothers who provide their own accessories, including tubing and breast shields.

Lactation programs can be virtually cost free to an employer who simply allows mothers the time and space required to express breast milk. The number of employers providing lactation programs is rising to as much as 20% of companies.

Eleven states (California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington) have laws protecting a woman's right to breastfeed and pump in the workpalce. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures: 50 States Summary of Breastfeeding Laws to view legislation in your home state regarding breastfeeding in the workplace.

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