|Photo of PumpEase courtesy of http://www.snugabell.com/|
However, the thing that concerns me the most is the perception of a continued lack of support for nursing mothers in the workplace. Federal law mandates not only that breastfeeding mothers be given break time whenever they need to pump, but it also says that employers with 50+ employees are required to provide a place for pumping that is NOT a bathroom. Many employers have made huge strides in accommodating nursing mothers; nevertheless, some companies may still be unaware of the legal requirement to support these employees. It is vitally important that the women who work in these companies make their HR people aware of their responsibility.
A Nurturing Moment actually has a special program in place specifically designed to help employers offer the best support available to mothers. The return on investment is incredible. Cigna conducted a 2 year study of breastfeeding employees and found that their workplace lactation program produced the following results:
- $240 million annual savings in health care expenses
- 62% fewer prescriptions
- 77% reduction in absenteeism
- 83% employee retention after maternity leave (national average is 59%)
- Healthcare claims per breastfed newborn averaged $1269 compared to $3415 for formula-fed infants.
This isn't about Mommy Wars or "Milk Wars." It's about a public health initiative. The worst thing that anybody can do is use guilt in an attempt to motivate a woman to nurse. Guilt is a lousy motivational tool. It is even more awful for anyone, breastfeeding advocate or not, to make a mother feel guilty about her feeding choice once that choice has been made. Life is just too short for guilt!
So what do we need to do? First of all, we need to make sure that all mothers have access to good prenatal education about breastfeeding. They need to know that it may be challenging. They also need to know where to turn if they do have any problems. Next, we need to realize that, as one mother so aptly put it, "It takes a village to breastfeed a baby." (thanks, Elizabeth!) That village includes health care providers, community support groups, family, friends, and breastfeeding professionals. Finally, we all need to strive to make the workplace more supportive for nursing moms. Are you in management? Do you own a business? Do you know someone who does? Find out what they're doing to help their nursing mothers. Ask questions before you get pregnant. If your children are older, then see what you can do to smooth the way for younger women. If we all work together, we can help more moms succeed and avoid a lot of unnecessary guilt.