Returning to work after having a baby can be difficult for new mothers for numerous reasons. Many women choose to return to their professions after maternity leave, though. In 2012, 65 percent of women with children under 18 were employed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite state and federal laws that require employers to give nursing women a private place for breast pumping during the work day, not everyone does. But at least one local employer sets a good example.
Earlier this year, StarTek realized its employees had a need that wasn’t being properly met. The business process outsourcing company employs nearly 900 people at its Grand Junction location between 6 a.m. and midnight, said Norma Roberts, human resources director. Many employees are between the ages of 18 and 30, Roberts said, which means StarTek employs a lot of new mothers.
“Because of our size and demographics, we said, ‘We’ve got to address this,’” Roberts said. “We knew we needed a clean, private room where they can pump.”
After considering existing storage and server rooms, StarTek ultimately decided to devote a section of an employee break room to nursing mothers. Earlier this year, Roberts worked with her facilities manager to add two walls and a door to the corner of the break room. Now, about 20 employees use the room to pump milk when they’re away from their babies, Roberts said.
It was an important step for the company, she said. “It’s like an extended family. If you feel like someone cares about you as an individual, you’re going to want to be there and perform better. It goes back to really valuing your employee.”
As of August 2008, Colorado law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide suitable private space for employees to express milk at work and not discriminate against women for doing so. The full text of the law can be found at www.breastfeedcolorado.org. State law applies to employers with one or more employees and protects mothers through a child’s second birthday.
Veronica Delgado, an employee at StarTek, returned to work only two weeks after her daughter was born at 29 weeks on Jan. 1. The new mom said she was grateful to her employer for the flexibility and understanding she was offered while she traveled between work, home and the hospital.
Delgado is among the StarTek employees who takes advantage of the private space in which to use her breast pump. When she heard about the room and was given a key to it, she was happy, she said. “It’s so nice to just be able to put my feet up and pump away in a clean, comfortable place,” she said. “It’s just made me feel even more appreciated there at StarTek. I am very happy to be part of such a great company.”
Delgado works evenings at StarTek and days at a local State Farm insurance agency. She said she’s also grateful for a private, comfortable space to pump at her day job.
There are many benefits to breast-feeding:
- Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies and protects babies from illness.
- Breast milk is easier for babies to digest.
- Breast-fed babies have a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- Breast-feeding is less expensive than formula and bottles, the estimated cost of which tops $1,500 a year.
- Women who breast-feed reap such benefits as a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression.
- Mothers who breast-feed miss fewer days at work because their babies are healthier. And healthier babies mean fewer medical claims and lower medical costs for employers.
- Breast feeding is better for the environment, thanks to less trash from formula and bottle packaging.
Employers interested in learning more about how to accommodate nursing employees should visit the website located at www.womenshealth.gov/Breast-feeding. Click on “business case for breast-feeding” under the section labeled “government in action on breast-feeding.”
Another online resource is located at the website at www.businessgrouphealth.org/toolkits/et_Breast-feeding.cfm.