Support for Moms Breastfeeding in Physically Demanding Jobs
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Support for Moms Breastfeeding in Physically Demanding Jobs

More women are entering physically demanding jobs. As a result, they face unique challenges while breastfeeding or pumping at work.

Updated May 21, 2024

Women with infants and children make up the fastest-growing segment of the labor force, with approximately 58% being working moms with infants under the age of 1.1 As gender roles diversify, more women hold physically demanding positions within construction companies, police forces, warehouses, etc. As a result, they face unique challenges while attempting to breast pump at work. Many organizations are finding that the benefits of supporting their breastfeeding employees are substantial. This includes healthier moms and babies, lowered healthcare costs, and decreased turnover rates.

Challenges Moms Face in Physically Demanding Jobs

During an eight-hour day, moms will need to pump two to three times, possibly more during longer shifts. However, many moms in physically demanding positions struggle to find time to take pumping breaks during their shifts. For instance, servers are often too busy handling multiple tables to stop for a pumping break, and policewomen often travel in the field. Also, mothers are often unaware of when and where they will be able to pump. This is partly because many businesses 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 breast milk for their children for up to one year after giving birth.2 Employers must also provide a private space for breast pumping that’s not a bathroom and free from the public or coworkers.* This is crucial for a mother’s privacy and comfort, especially those in uniform who must undress to pump. Unfortunately, these difficulties can cause moms to jeopardize either their jobs or 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 already implementing supportive programs for their lactating mothers, from white-collar to blue-collar jobs, see monetary savings. This is due to happier and healthier moms, lowered healthcare costs, and increased productivity.3,4 Moms allowed to continue their breastfeeding journeys are healthier, as breastfeeding helps them recover from giving birth more quickly. Therefore, they’re better able to return to their physically demanding positions.

When moms have breaks, they can 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 moms lowering the cost of lost work and healthcare. Corporations that support breastfeeding mothers can see their average healthcare cost per infant drop because babies are sick less often and lower absenteeism rates.3,4,6 Most importantly, when moms are supported, they are more engaged employees. This results in lower turnover rates that offset the costs of starting a breastfeeding program.7

Ways To Support Your Breastfeeding Moms

Here are some steps you can take to support breastfeeding moms in the workplace:

1. Communicate With Your Moms

It’s important to talk to your moms to learn about their needs regarding breastfeeding. Try to work with them to create a flexible pumping schedule. You can 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

Find an unused office or room to convert, even on a construction site. Outfit it with a chair to relax in, a surface to place their breast pump and accessories, and a mini-fridge for milk storage. An area with a water source nearby is best for handwashing. Consider other options, such as a popup tent, if no space is available.

3. Give Them Breaks From the Field

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 conveniently locate lactation rooms along your route.

It’s Time To Start Supporting Breastfeeding Moms

As women fill 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 of implementing a breastfeeding program for your business will be well worth the investment as your turnover rate, healthcare costs, and absentee rates decline.

*According to the United States Department of Labor, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this provision if they can prove compliance would impose an undue hardship.2

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Jennifer Jordan is the Director of Mom & Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare. A working and once-breastfeeding mom, Jennifer - along with her team - is committed to supporting all moms… Read more

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