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Having a corporate lactation program with mother’s rooms and breaks for pumping is a great benefit for working mothers. It is equally important to have a workplace atmosphere that is supportive of breastfeeding. Managers, supervisors, co-workers, and employees play a crucial part in creating a positive breastfeeding environment. Since mothers work with their colleagues over the course of a full workday, it’s critical that employees are educated and informed on being supportive to their breastfeeding co-workers since other employees may inadvertently make the mothers uncomfortable.
Ensure that HR, managers, and supervisors understand your lactation program and policies. Encourage them to talk to their employees and make sure they understand what benefits the company has to offer. It is beneficial to include your lactation program with training on corporate benefits. Or have a separate session for managers to understand the lactation program and its policies. It’s important that managers know what are the lawful rights of the breastfeeding mother and the policies of the company. They should know that breastfeeding mothers are entitled to pumping breaks and they should be given a place to pump other than the bathroom. Inform them of other laws and laws that are specific to your state and city. Managers should be encouraged to discuss adjusting meeting times or work schedules with their employees and have a positive attitude toward their employee’s choice to breastfeed.
Inform managers of what is not allowed, such as discriminating against lactating mothers through performance reviews, work opportunities, or inappropriate comments or behavior that can cause a hostile environment. Managers need to know that supporting lactating mothers creates a positive environment that retains talent and benefits the company.
Most co-workers are supportive of women who choose to give breastmilk to their baby, especially those who are already parents. They also support corporate lactation programs. Some co-workers however may believe that lactation programs are unfair because they believe mothers are getting preferential treatment by being allowed to take pumping breaks or they believe they will need to cover the mother’s workload. When mothers are in an environment with employees who believe lactation support is unfair, they tend to stop breastfeeding sooner and don’t discuss their issues with their manager because they may feel the manager also has the same attitude. To avoid creating this negative environment, communicate the positive benefits of the program to all employees and ensure that the manager and breastfeeding employee have a ongoing communication that everything is going well. You can also promote the program as a health benefit while also promoting other benefits that address the needs of other employees, such as fitness breaks.
Companies should make sure their work environment is friendly to breastfeeding mothers. Inappropriate jokes and comments about mothers taking pump breaks should not be tolerated. They are hurtful and create a hostile work environment. Mothers whom we have helped in our breastfeeding centers have told stories to us of inappropriate comments and jokes from co-workers. In addition, employees should not harass mothers by questioning or following mothers who are going to the mother’s room. Companies should encourage breastfeeding mothers to report to HR of inappropriate behavior and harassment without fear of retaliation or discrimination. Be sure all employees know what is and is not appropriate conduct in the work environment.
It is very beneficial for breastfeeding mothers to support each other and is part of having a positive environment for lactating mothers. Help facilitate mothers to have regular get-togethers over lunch once a week or once a month for moms to discuss their issues and share tips with each other. You can have a company website with a discussion board for breastfeeding mothers. This is particularly useful for large companies that have multiple geographical sites. Smaller sites may not have many lactating moms, so a company discussion board or monthly audio conference helps include and give support to those mothers. Potlucks including family and babies are a great way to bring mothers together for support.
The corporate culture for every company is unique, so it’s important to have a customized plan for workplace support. For some companies, having an online benefits class for employees that includes the lactation program may work well. For other companies, small group sessions in person with discussion to address questions might be more effective. A small company might not need to create a discussion group for lactating mothers, while other companies with employees around the world may need to have multiple geographic discussion boards. Healthy Horizons Corporate Lactation Services can help you build a customized plan to build a positive workplace environment for lactating mothers that is just right for your company.