The passage of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP) represents a major step forward for breastfeeding moms in the workplace. However, simply complying with the new requirements with dedicated lactation spaces and break times is just the starting point. To truly support working mothers, organizations must go further to bridge the gap between pumping and performing job duties.
The Challenges and Pain Points
According to the CDC, in 2019, 83.2% of mothers breastfed their newborns, but after one month, the figure dropped to 78.6%. At six months, 55.8% of mothers gave their babies breast milk and formula, and only 24.9% exclusively breastfed. Research suggests that inadequate lactation support in the workplace is a major reason for this decline.
Pumping moms face many challenges, from unsuitable pumping areas to negative comments from coworkers to feelings of isolation. Surveys reveal that 4 in 10 mothers rate their employer’s lactation support as only fair or worse.
Meanwhile, pumping and nursing require upwards of 35 hours per week — nearly equivalent to a full-time job. This demanding dual burden places immense stress and anxiety on new moms. It’s no wonder that half of breastfeeding employees have considered changing jobs.
Elements of a Comprehensive Program
Experts agree that truly supportive workplaces provide lactation programs that go far beyond just the minimum accommodations required for basic compliance. Key components include:
- Dedicated, private lactation rooms with refrigeration for milk storage
- A policy ensuring adequate break time to pump, which is counted as paid work hours
- Easy access to lactation consultants for questions and guidance
- Training for managers on best practices for supporting pumping staff
- Community of peers to reduce isolation and boost morale
This more holistic approach focuses on culture change, not just facilities. Normalizing breastfeeding and creating a judgment-free environment is critical.
The Business Case
Investing in a robust lactation support program provides measurable benefits that directly impact the bottom line. Research shows that effective programs improve retention, recruitment, engagement and productivity.
Supporting new parents is also linked to reductions in healthcare costs and absenteeism. Employees who feel cared for and valued are more loyal, focused and dedicated to their work. In today’s ultra-competitive hiring market, comprehensive lactation support can be a crucial workforce strategy that gives your company an edge.
Keys to Success
To truly bridge the gap for pumping moms, experts emphasize several best practices:
- Appoint a dedicated lactation program leader or team. Consolidated oversight is far more effective than siloed or fragmented responsibility spread across HR, facilities management, and other departments.
- Create anonymous channels for candid employee feedback. Surveys, focus groups and other means identify where support is falling short or could be improved.
- Promote the program proactively before pregnancy. Don’t wait until an employee’s time of need. Normalize early and reinforce often.
- Establish formal peer groups and mentorship. Connecting pumping moms alleviates isolation and fosters community.
- Require training for all managers. Build skills for having supportive conversations and addressing concerns.
- Partner with lactation consultants. Certified experts can review policies, facilities and culture to optimize.
The PUMP Act provides a federal mandate on baseline accommodations that all employers must meet. But truly family-friendly cultures require organizations to take a more holistic and human-centered approach focused on the entire experience.
When companies invest in supporting parents during this vital phase of life, they invest in their workforce
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Copyright © 2023 Smarts Publishing. This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.