Recently, Aeroflow Healthcare conducted a survey of 1,048 American adults to assess perceptions of breastfeeding and pumping in public.1 Unfortunately, new moms may not be surprised to hear that the results clearly show that we still have much further to go. Despite increases in breastfeeding advocacy and national campaigns bringing awareness to this issue, there is still a lack support for moms breastfeeding in public and pumping.
Moms Still Lack Support for Breastfeeding in Public
Today, approximately 1-in-4 people find breastfeeding or using a breast pump in public inappropriate (24%). And believe that women should not be allowed to breastfeed or pump in clear view of the public at all (25%). Interestingly, 1-in-5 men (20%) also believe that public spaces should not be required to provide a lactation room. Raising the question: How can nursing mothers feed their babies outside the home without facing scrutiny?
Lack of Support for Moms Breastfeeding in Public at Work
There is a lack of support for moms breastfeeding in public in the workplace as well. Nearly half of men (41%) and a quarter of women (23%) do not think that employers should be required to provide a dedicated space, such as a mother’s room or lactation room, for pumping.
When considering these attitudes, it’s important to note that research clearly indicates that because breastfeeding can lead to better health outcomes for both mom and baby. Employers who provide these accommodations to nursing and pumping women see reduced healthcare costs. As well as improved company culture and morale and increased retention rates.
For example, after implementing a supportive breastfeeding program, one employer began saving $240k annually in reduced healthcare costs, experienced a 77% reduction in lost work, and decreased prescription pharmacy costs by 62%.2 It’s easy to make the financial argument for these programs, but basic protections are also a legal requirement for most businesses.
Legal Rights for Breastfeeding and Pumping at Work
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must provide reasonable break time for mothers to express breast milk for their infant up to one year after their birth.3 They must also provide a private space free from the intrusion of the public and coworkers for the purpose of expressing breast milk.
As women makeup nearly 47% of workers and are expanding into more unconventional roles. 70% of those female workers are moms who feel as if they have to choose between their career and breastfeeding goals. Due to the negative stigmas attached to breastfeeding, many working moms feel the need to quit working or seek a more family forward employer in order to provide breast milk for their babies.
What You Can do About the Lack of Support for Moms Breastfeeding in Public
So, what can be done to span the divide between public perception and the health and economic case for breastfeeding?
We can start in our own communities. Start with measures as small as supporting the new moms in your own circle or encouraging your local government to pass legislation that explicitly protects moms’ rights to breastfeed in public. Our hope is that this study raises awareness of the pressure and discomfort that women endure when trying to breastfeed in public. So regardless if her goal is to breastfeed for a week, for two years, or to supplement with formula, she has the support she needs to make that possible.