Lactation Policies Matter

Why Policies Matter – Texas Women Want to Breastfeed Two women in an office talking.

A written and communicated lactation support policy can make a big difference for your employees when it comes to meeting their infant feeding goals. 

Over 80% of Texas women start breastfeeding after birth. But that drops in the first few weeks and months of a baby's life. This is especially true for new mothers in low-wage jobs, who often stop breastfeeding even sooner. Parents in low-wage jobs may be less likely to have a work environment that is supportive of breastfeeding.  

Even though most families know breastfeeding is best for them and their babies, it is hard to keep it up without support at work. Some lactating employees feel scared to ask their employers for time to pump milk. Having a written and communicated lactation support policy signals your support and can make all the difference!

It’s biology!

After a baby is born, a mother’s body will naturally start to make breastmilk. For lactating employees, milk expression breaks are as necessary as other biological breaks. Similar breaks include bathroom breaks or breaks to check blood sugar. If lactating employees do not express milk as often as they need to, they might leak milk, feel uncomfortable, reduce how much milk they produce, or even get sick. This can make them miss work or make it harder for them to keep making enough milk for their baby.

Like a business, breastfeeding is about supply and demand.

The more a baby breastfeeds, the more milk the body makes. When a lactating mother is with her baby during the day, her milk supply gets replenished every time her baby feeds. But when she returns to work, she needs to pump milk as often as a baby would breastfeed to keep making enough milk. As the baby grows, the time needed between pumping sessions can change. So, it's important to talk to your employees and support them in planning the right pumping schedule throughout their breastfeeding journey.

Many factors can influence the timing, frequency, and duration of an employee's lactation break time needs. Employers can support employees by providing flexible scheduling options, such as coming in a little early, leaving a little late, or allowing employees to combine or extend paid rest breaks or split unpaid meal breaks. 

Food for Thought

As you can imagine, your employees may not find it easy to talk to you about expressing milk at work. After returning from leave, most employees do not want to “rock the boat” by asking for things like private space or a modified break schedule. An employee's co-workers may not understand the biology or necessity of lactation breaks. Co-workers may feel like breastfeeding is a “personal choice,” and they might not understand the impact on an employee’s health. There has not always been open dialogue about breastfeeding in the workplace. For this reason, employers also may not be aware that worksite lactation support is necessary. Start the conversation before your employees go on leave – ensure they know about your worksite’s lactation support policy. Continue the conversation when they return to maintain a sustainable, supportive environment.

Taking part in the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program (TMFW) is beneficial for families, employees, your business, and your community.

Benefits for employees, babies, and familiesMother breastfeeding her child.

There is no question that breastfed babies are healthier babies. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get common illnesses like diarrhea and ear infections and chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity. They are also less likely to get serious conditions like severe lower respiratory infections, leukemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  Breastfeeding is also good for moms because it lowers their risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Parents who work at TMFW worksites can keep providing breastmilk for their babies even after going back to work. This means mom and baby can continue to receive all the benefits breastfeeding has to offer.

What about Dads and Partners?

Worksite lactation support programs can benefit the whole family! Some workplaces offer classes for employees who have breastfeeding partners. These classes often teach the basics of breastfeeding and how to provide support. Others may provide breast pumps that employees can take home to their breastfeeding partners. Including partners in your lactation program can lead to higher rates of breastfeeding and less absenteeism.

Benefits for your business

Benefits for Texas

TMFW worksites contribute to the health and well-being of our population. Breastfeeding makes economic sense not only for families, but for entire communities. According to a 2017 study, suboptimal breastfeeding leads to 3,340 excess deaths each year and $3 billion in medical costs (79% of which are maternal).

A tool called the Mothers' Milk Tool estimated that not breastfeeding costs the world $341.3 billion each year. This includes higher healthcare costs, lower cognitive abilities in children, and reduced productivity.

To learn more about how to apply for the Texas Mother-Friendly Designation, click here.