Make breastfeeding work

Katie Goddeyne
Katie Goddeyne

A lot of mothers work. A lot of mothers breastfeed — about 75 percent, in fact. That means a lot of working moms breastfeed. But some working moms don’t get the opportunity to breastfeed because of conditions at their place of business.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated the first week of August. This year’s motto was “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work” — a theme fitting to both mothers and employers, seeing as both sides reap the benefits.

Studies show breastfed infants are less likely to develop ear infections, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, obesity and some childhood cancers and also are less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, compared to formula fed infants. Breastfeeding moms are less likely to develop diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.

Businesses benefit because breastfeeding brings a 3-to-1 return on investment by:

Decreasing health care costs.

Curbing employee absenteeism due to healthier babies.

Lowering turnover rates.

Increasing employee productivity and loyalty.

Enhancing the business image in the eyes of employees, customers and the community.

Let’s back up for a moment. Although breastfeeding is valuable for moms, babies and employers, it’s also important to remember Colorado law prohibits employers from discriminating against women for expressing milk in the workplace. Employers are also required to provide reasonable time for mothers to express milk at work, whether during unpaid or paid break times or meal times.

Employers also need to make a reasonable effort to provide suitable, private space with an electrical outlet for moms to express milk at work. Keep in mind, toilet stalls don’t count, but a 4-foot by 5-foot space does.

Businesses are responsible for providing breastfeeding moms with space, but that doesn’t mean moms can’t meet them halfway.

Here are some tips for mothers:

If you’re going back to work and plan to continue your breastfeeding regiment, go prepared. Talk to your supervisor about your plans. Determine a time and place for your pumping schedule for the workday.

You can also begin expressing and storing breast milk before you go back to work to get a jump-start on the process. Start feeding your baby breast milk from a bottle at least once a week after the baby is 3 weeks to 4 weeks old to help the infant get used to feeding from a bottle. Knowing your baby is comfortable while you’re at work reduces stress.

Moms are also known to be more successful if they return to work on a Thursday or Friday so they have a shortened workweek for the first week back, work a split shift with a long break in the middle of the day or if they start part-time before returning to a full-time position.

Some moms also consider using a child care facility close to work so that they can visit and breastfeed their babies during breaks.

Employers looking for more resources and information on how to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment should visit www.breastfeedcolorado.com, www.llli.org or
www.usbreastfeeding.org/workplace-law.