Is Your Workplace 'Infant-Friendly' & Supportive of Breastfeeding?

Christie Haskell

Going back to work can be a really tough decision for new moms, yet in 2009, 50.1 percent of moms with babies returned to work, and 69 percent of them did so full-time. Sometimes the logistics of balancing baby and work can make life tough ... especially when looking at 173 countries, we're only one of four that doesn't have a national policy guaranteeing paid maternity leave, though some individual states are finally putting through policies. Some employers are also not very mom-friendly and make you feel as if asking for anything related to your children makes people look down on you (and in some workplaces, sadly, it does).

Though people don't always (or often) have a say in where they work, if you do or own your own business, and especially if you plan on breastfeeding, it's worth looking into finding an Infant-Friendly Workplace ... a designation actually dictated by laws in many states.

Where I live in Washington state, an employer is legally allowed to put "Infant Friendly" on any promotional material if they've submitted an official workplace policy to the Department of Health that shows they provide some specific things:

  • Flexible work scheduling, including scheduling breaks and permitting work patterns that provide time for expression of breast milk
  • A convenient, sanitary, safe, and private location, other than a restroom, allowing privacy for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk
  • A convenient, clean, and safe water source with facilities for washing hands and rinsing breast-pumping equipment located in the private location (mentioned above)
  • A convenient hygienic refrigerator in the workplace for the mother's breast milk

Many companies and businesses find one small room with a key and a sign on the door, or even allow use of a private office on a regular basis for moms who pump. Some women choose to have a babysitter, nanny, or even a stay-at-home spouse bring the baby to them during their breaks to nurse directly instead of pump, which is more efficient and even raises morale (who WOULDN'T want to get to cuddle their baby in the middle of the day?). But especially if you live far away from work or use a group day care, this isn't always possible.

Some large companies that would easily qualify include Capitol Hill's "Boob Cube" lactation room with pumps, a fridge, and a keypad that only nursing/pumping moms have the code for.

The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding has a lot of ideas and goals for making breastfeeding, pumping, and even childcare and maternity leave much more available for moms and affordable for companies as well, and I really want to see improvement there. I've been fortunate enough to be able to stay home, even work from home (wearing jammies and nursing right now!), but it's not a reality for everyone. My working and nursing friends often struggle a lot, and I wish every woman who wanted to breastfeed could without having tons of obstacles to jump, even if she is working as well.

Is your workplace good at helping moms maintain balance and continue breastfeeding?


Image via acme/Flickr

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