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Nobody Breastfeeds Alone: Creating Supportive Environments in the Workplace

Published: August 26, 2019

In honoring National Breastfeeding Month this August, the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program team is joining the global conversation of supporting, promoting, and protecting breastfeeding rights and behavior. Breast milk is universally considered to be an optimal source of nutrition for newborn babies. Many health authorities, including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, and suggest continued breastfeeding with the incorporation of appropriate complementary foods up to one to two years of age. There are many possible health benefits of breastfeeding, including lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, postpartum depression, and certain cancers among mothers as well as lower rates of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and obesity among infants. Breastfeeding also has significant community benefits including the potential to decrease annual healthcare costs of $13 billion per year in the U.S. and decrease parental leave absenteeism and associated loss of family income.

Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, initiation and duration rates often do not meet recommendations or personal goals of women. In 2015, 83% of infants born in the United States started to breastfeed, 57% were breastfeeding at 6 months, and only 36% were still breastfeeding at 12 months. While there are many factors that influence duration, unsupportive work environments are consistently reported as a barrier to continued breastfeeding. Every year, four million women give birth in the United States, with Texas accounting for 10% of all live births. While a woman’s decision to breastfeed is entirely personal and based upon individual and family needs, values, and abilities, there are many ways to support new mothers in the workplace regardless of their breastfeeding intentions.

With this year’s National Breastfeeding Month theme being  "Support Changes Everything", we would like to highlight the importance of worksite lactation support programs for the new mothers that do decide to continue breastfeeding after their return to work. These programs can be highly beneficial to employees while simultaneously providing many benefits to employers. The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program offers best practices, tools and resources to help employers implement flexible programs that meet the needs of both employer and employee. Benefits for businesses that incorporate comprehensive lactation support programs include increased retention and morale, and reduced attrition, absenteeism, and healthcare costs.

It’s important to remember that simple solutions provide meaningful support, and suggested minimum criteria for lactation programs include flexible scheduling, private space, and access to a clean water source and storage. Additionally, while an inclusive work environment is key to successful worksite lactation programs, we would like to emphasize again that this includes all new mothers and their individual goals. To learn more about supporting worksite lactation programs and designation requirements, please see Texas Mother-Friendly’s steps to Build Your Program.

 NBM 2019 “Support Changes Everything” sub-themes:

 

Theme

Week 1 (Aug 1-Aug 7)

Empowered Parents & Partners (also World Breastfeeding Week)

Week 2 (Aug 8-Aug 14)

Investing in our Future

Week 3 (Aug 15-Aug 21)

Workplace & Work life (or school life)

Week 4 (Aug 22-Aug 31)

Black Breastfeeding Week- The World is Yours: Imagine. Innovate. Liberate.

Written By:

Caroline Smith
GRA for the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program 

 

 

 


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