Women with infants and children make up the fastest-growing segment of the labor force, with 58.6% of those working moms having infants under the age of one. As gender roles diversify, more women are entering physically demanding positions with construction companies, police forces, warehouses, and more. As a result, they face unique challenges while attempting to breast pump at work.
However, many organizations are finding that the benefits of supporting their breastfeeding employees are substantial, including healthier moms and healthier babies, lowered healthcare costs, and decreased turnover rates.
Challenges Moms Face in Physically Demanding Jobs
Many moms in physically demanding positions struggle to find time to take breast pumping breaks during their shifts. During an eight-hour day, moms will need to pump two to three times, possibly more during longer shifts.
Waitresses are often too busy handling multiple tables to suddenly stop for a pumping break, and policewomen are often traveling in the field. Mothers are simply unaware of when and where they will be able to pump. This is partly due to the fact that many businesses still have not provided nursing mothers with an adequate lactation room.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that employers must provide eligible nursing mothers with reasonable break time to express breastmilk for their children for up to one year after giving birth.
Employers must also provide a private space for the purpose of breast pumping that’s not a bathroom and free from intrusion of the public or coworkers*. This is crucial for a mother’s privacy and comfort, especially for those in uniform when they have to undress in order to pump.
Unfortunately, these difficulties can cause moms to jeopardize either their jobs or their breastfeeding goals because it can be too challenging to keep both. However, when employers and employees work together, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Benefits Of Breastfeeding
Employers that have already implemented supportive programs for their lactating mothers from white collar to blue collar jobs are realizing monetary savings. They are gaining $3 for every $1 invested due to happier and healthier moms, lowered healthcare costs, and increased productivity.
Moms who are allowed to continue their breastfeeding journeys are healthier, as breastfeeding helps them to recover from giving birth more quickly. Therefore, they’re better able to return to their physically demanding positions.
When moms have breaks, they also have the chance to rehydrate and consume healthy calories by eating snacks and drinking water while breast pumping. As a result, their milk flow will be more productive to provide more for their infants, and they will feel more energized during their shifts.
Breastfed babies are also healthier, resulting in fewer days off for mom, lowering the cost of lost work and healthcare. After supporting breastfeeding mothers, one corporation witnessed the average healthcare cost per infant drop from $3,415 to $1,269 because babies were sick less often.
After implementing a breastfeeding support program, one business started to save $42,000 annually from lower rates of absenteeism. Another business that’s made up of 80% male employees experienced a 35% drop in healthcare claims, a 71% drop in time taken off, and an 83% increase in workplace positivity after simply taking the steps to support their breastfeeding moms.
Most importantly, when moms are supported, they are more engaged employees, resulting in lower turnover rates that by far offset the costs of starting a breastfeeding program.
Ways To Support Your Breastfeeding Moms
1. Communicate with your moms to learn their needs and work with them to create a flexible pumping schedule.
Involve your team to help cover the workload during breaks. Moms don’t need much more time than the average break, and can help cover tasks when other employees are busy.
2. Create a space for them to breast pump.
You can easily find an unused office or room to easily convert, even on a construction site. Outfit it with a chair to relax in, surface to place their breast pump and accessories, and mini fridge for milk storage. An area with a water source nearby is best, for hand washing. If absolutely no space is available, consider other options, such as a popup tent.
3. If your working mom is out in the field, allow them to come back to the office or station to breast pump.
You can also use the pumpspotting app to find lactation rooms conveniently located along their routes.
It’s Time To Start Supporting Breastfeeding Moms
As women are filling more vital roles across various physically demanding jobs, positions will become increasingly competitive to fill. Attractive benefits such as breastfeeding support will help retain and attract employees.
Tackling the individual challenges that come with implementing a breastfeeding program for your business will be well worth the investment as your turnover rate, healthcare costs, and absentee rates decline.
*Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this provision if they can prove that compliance would impose an undue hardship.