Many new parents spend hours preparing for the arrival of a new baby – reading books, seeking professional advice and consulting friends and family. However, in focusing on birth, they may not get to prepare for other big milestones, like the transition back to work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more women are returning to work than ever before – more than 70% of women with children under 18 are in the labor force. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest new mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals.
“Parenthood is complicated on its own,” said Melissa Gonzales, executive vice president of the Americas for Medela LLC. “Adding in a full workload is something that many new mothers take on within weeks after birth. With nearly two-thirds of moms going back to work after baby, there is a clear need to better the return-to-work transition for mothers in workplaces across America. There are easy ways for employers to simplify that process so parents don’t have to choose between returning to work and continuing to provide breast milk to their babies.”
Whether you are preparing for maternity leave, about to return to work after a baby or have already made the transition, the experts at Medela recommend considering these important workplace qualities:
Time and space. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. If you are planning to pump, check to see if your office has a private space to do so, and ensure there are accommodations to allow you to properly clean and sanitize your breast pump.
Travel considerations. If you are required to travel for work, look into your company’s existing policy on breast milk shipping and storage. With more women in the workforce, some companies include breast milk shipping as a benefit for women who have recently given birth who may need to travel.
Supportive resources. Some companies provide educational resources about continuing to breastfeed while working full-time. Ask if your employer provides resources to help you navigate the demands of breastfeeding, or if it provides access to virtual on-demand support such as a lactation consultant. See if your employer can connect you to another mom or parent who can help you or offer advice as you make the transition.
Other accommodations. As breast milk feeding becomes increasingly commonplace, companies are implementing policies to better accommodate working parents. Examples include extended parental leave, flexible hours, on-site child care and access to programs such as March of Dimes’ Healthy Babies Healthy Business program and New Moms’ Healthy Returns, a resource for employers created by Medela and Mamava.
3 Tips for Breastfeeding at Work
Returning to work after the birth of a baby demands organization and prioritization. This is especially true for parents who want to continue breastfeeding. Consider these tips when planning the transition:
Know your legal rights.Educate yourself on your federally protected rights so you can take a stand if your rights aren’t respected. Employers in the U.S. are required to provide breastfeeding moms with a private place and reasonable break time to pump.
Bring a backup. Consider keeping a spare breast pump kit in your car or at your office, just in case you find yourself without the parts you need to pump, like storage bags. You may even consider an extra breast pump to eliminate the hassle of carrying one back and forth.
Reduce unnecessary stressors. Stress can affect your milk supply and make pumping more difficult. It can be a challenge to manage all the stressors, but finding a space at work that feels calm and peaceful can make a difference. Make signs so you’re not interrupted, and schedule time on your calendar so colleagues know you’re not available.
Learn more at NewMomsHealthyReturns.com.