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Breastfeeding Program

Breastfeeding Resources and Information for Employers and Managers

The basic needs of breastfeeding employees are minimal. They include:

Return on investment (ROI) is the bottom line in assessing the value of new programs. Research shows that providing a lactation support program is not only highly desired by breastfeeding employees who return to work after childbirth, it can also improve your company's ROI by saving money in health care and employee expenses by

  • Lowering medical costs and health insurance claims for breastfeeding employees and their infants (up to three times less for breastfeeding employees);
  • Reducing turnover rates (86-92 percent of breastfeeding employees returning to work after childbirth when a lactation support program is provided compared to the national average of 59 percent)
  • Lowering absenteeism rates (up to half the number of 1 day absences);
  • Improving productivity; and
  • Raising employee morale and loyalty to the company

Ideas to Help Employers Get Started

  • Start small with a simple pilot program.
  • Actively solicit input from employees to determine their needs and communicate the employers' interest in this topic

Assess the Need for a Program

  • Assessing the business environment can help with justification and support for a lactation support program and assist in the strategic planning process. Include such questions as:
  • How many women are likely to be affected by a support program?
  • Which department should be responsible for program oversight?
  • How should space be allocated for a lactation room?
  • What resources are available to properly equip the lactation room?
  • What program policies should be developed?
  • What record keeping may be required by the company?
  • What promotional venues are optimal for reaching potential program users, their colleagues and supervisors, and the general community?
  • Encourage supervisors to offer breastfeeding employees the flexibility to adjust meeting times around their scheduled pumping sessions, and to provide positive feedback on their choice to breastfeed.
  • Disseminate information about the designated room, or any other aspects of the lactation support program .

Co-Worker Support

Research shows that most coworkers, particularly employees who have children of their own, support company health benefit programs that include lactation support.

Occasionally, however, some co-workers might view these services as unfair, particularly if they perceive that they will be required to cover the breastfeeding mother's tasks or shifts. Mothers who worry about co-worker resistance sometimes discontinue breastfeeding earlier than planned, or hesitate to request lactation support from their supervisors. Successful company lactation programs consider the needs of both the breastfeeding employee and her co-workers. Some strategies to gain buy-in include:

  • Involving co-worker representatives as part of the initial planning phase to identify and address potential concerns;
  • Promoting the program as a company health benefit;
  • Communicating ways the company accommodates other employee needs (ex: fitness program breaks, private place to change clothes for exercise, privacy for diabetes self-management checks and insulin administration.etc.);
  • Communicating the positive reasons for the program that will speak to colleagues, including lower absenteeism rates, lower turnover rates, higher productivity, and faster return to the workplace;
  • Maintaining ongoing communication with both the breastfeeding employee and her co-workers to ensure that the program is working well.Formal and informal guidance from company managers and appropriate consultants can help with any adjustments that might be needed during the program's implementation.

Privacy for Milk Expression

Allocating Space The amount of space needed for a lactation room is minimal. It does not require a full-sized office. The size can be as small as 4' x 5' to accommodate a comfortable chair and a small table or shelf for a breast pump. Ideally, assign a space that already provides an electrical outlet.

Breastfeeding employees should never be expected to express milk in a restroom! Restrooms are unsanitary, usually lack appropriate electrical connections, and do not provide a place to comfortably operate a breast pump

What does a Lactation Room need?

Basic Model Even Better State of the Art
Electrical Outlet (standard 110V) Same as "Basic" model Same as "Basic" model
Room locks from the inside Same as "Basic" model Same as "Basic" model
Comfortable chair Footstool is included Recliner
Table or flat surface to hold the breast pump Same as "Basic" model Same as "Basic" model
Disinfectant wipes Same as "Basic" model Same as "Basic" model
Room is located near a source of running water Room has a sink with running water in it Same as "Even Better" model
Employee brings her own breast pump Employer pays for rental of a breast pump, or provides a hospital-grade multi-user electric breast pump that is purchased or rented Employer subsidizes or provides a portable electric breast pump, or provides a hospital-grade multi-user electric breast pump Breast pumps are also provided for partners of male employees
Employee brings her own attachment kit if hospital-grade pump is used Employer subsidizes the cost of attachment kits for hospital-grade pump Employer provides the attachment kit for employees
Employee stores milk in a public area refrigerator or personal cooler Employer provides personal coolers for storing milk Employer provides a small refrigerator within the room for storing milk
Room is clean Attractive wall hangings, floral arrangement, etc. Soft lighting
Other Suggestions:
Educational resources are available. Computer terminal with VS PC/internet access is available Bulletin board for posting baby photos and notes of support
Desk or table top space is provided Telephone available for employee to check voicemail messages  

Time to Express Milk

  • The amount of time a woman needs to express milk is usually handled easily during the regular allowable break times.
  • Women typically require two or three pumping sessions of about 15 minutes each, excluding any time needed to go to and from the lactation room.
  • As the baby begins eating solid foods around 6 months, pumping sessions often become less frequent.
  • After the baby reaches 12 to 15 months, most women have ceased expressing milk altogether.
  • Sometimes it is more efficient for women to simply feed their infants directly. This can work well.

Feeding Baby Directly
Sometimes it is more efficient for women to simply feed their infants directly. This can work well if the company provides onsite childcare, if the childcare provider is able to bring the baby to the mother during the work period, or if the company allows the employee to bring her infant to work for the first few months.

If extra time is needed for milk expression or direct infant feeding, flexibility to make up the time before or after the usual work schedule helps make this expenditure of time manageable. Organizations that offer a flexible structure report their employees are so appreciative of the program that abuse of this system of support is rare.

Flexible breaks and work options
Women need to express milk about every 3 hours, or two to three times during a typical work day. Each milk expression time takes around 15 minutes, plus time to go to and from the lactation room.

Employer-provided information and resources accessible through the worksite during pregnancy and after the baby is born help prepare women for balancing the requirements for breastfeeding with their job responsibilities. This information is also beneficial for expectant fathers.

Companies that provide lactation information and support for male employees and their partners have lower absenteeism rates among men and lower health insurance claims.

A positive, accepting attitude from upper management, supervisors, and coworkers helps breastfeeding employees feel confident in their ability to continue working while breastfeeding.

Is human milk a hazard?
Human milk is not a hazard in the work environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not recognize human milk as a health hazard. As with other consumable items, breastfeeding women who pump, should store the breast milk, labeled with the date, in the refrigerator or packed in a portable lunch box cooler with an icepack. Breastfeeding mothers feel more secure if the stored milk is readily available and accessible.

This page last updated September 28, 2012