As a physician, I watch so many of my patients struggle with the transition back to work after having a baby — the lack of sleep, the challenge of balancing career with a newborn, and of course, the demands of breastfeeding, which often requires juggling a work schedule around pumping sessions.
So I’m excited to see some employers beginning to support new moms by providing a workplace environment that is not only conducive to breastfeeding, but encourages mothers to do so. Over 300 companies are now adding nursing benefits to their employment packages, and breastfeeding-friendly practices are becoming the new normal — a huge step in the right direction for women in the workplace.
Companies such as Hulu, Zappos and Zillow have taken note that only 59% of new moms return back to the workplace after childbirth, and are adding resources such as Lactation Lab, Milk Stork or Mamava Pod to encourage them to do so. Mamava provides freestanding private pods for pumping and breastfeeding mothers on the go. Milk Stork enables moms to get their breast milk home when they’re away on business. And Lactation Lab’s test kits help moms optimize the quality of their breast milk, enabling many moms to breastfeed their babies for longer when they’re faced with questions around milk supply or quality.
As a result of such initiatives, new moms don’t have to choose between their career and their commitment to breastfeeding. This in turn helps businesses keep some of their best and brightest on staff. Research shows that moms who work, especially full time, breastfeed their babies for less time than those who don’t, but adding lactation support boosts employee retention by 27%. As referenced in the study, some women who weren’t provided with private pumping areas resorted to pumping in toilet stalls at their place of employment, resulting in premature weaning. The study also showed that providing women with pumping equipment increases breastfeeding duration after they return to work.
I started my company, Lactation Lab, after feeling overwhelmed while trying to breastfeed my newborn while working full time in my busy family medicine practice. My daughter was failing to gain weight, despite an ample milk supply, and I didn’t have any way to test my milk to find out why. Working with top chemists and a world-class lab, I spent two years developing our kit, which tests for 17 key nutrients and fatty acids that are most important for a child’s development, with the goal of giving moms more confidence and information about their breast milk to keep them breastfeeding for longer. For working moms in particular, who often see more challenges in supply and milk quality, our product can help them to find solutions that enable them to breastfeed their babies for a longer duration.
The World Health Organization recommends babies consume only breast milk for the first six months of life and ideally up to one year after complementary foods are introduced. And studies show that when mom is less stressed and supported, she is more likely to breastfeed for longer. (studies here). Employers can do well by doing good: by taking steps to support breastfeeding at work, they can contribute to the health of their employees’ babies, improve their employees’ productivity and increase their loyalty.