Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Supporting Working Mothers
Breastfeeding is a natural and essential part of motherhood, providing numerous health benefits for both the baby and the mother. However, for many working mothers, the decision to breastfeed can be challenging due to the lack of support and understanding in the workplace. In this blog post, we will explore the challenges breastfeeding mothers face in the workplace and discuss ways employers can create a supportive environment for working mothers.
Many working mothers face considerable challenges when it comes to continuing breastfeeding after returning to work following their maternity leave . Some of the common challenges include the lack of time, support and privacy.
Often many workplaces do not provide adequate time or private spaces for mothers to express milk. This can make it difficult for mothers to maintain their milk supply and can lead to discomfort and stress. Furthermore, a lack of understanding among employers and colleagues on the importance of breastfeeding can also create a negative attitude and acceptance towards breastfeeding, resulting in a lack of support for a mother to continue.
Employers play a crucial role in supporting working mothers who choose to breastfeed. The Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice states that, “…wherever possible, employers should try to accommodate workers who wish to breastfeed”.
Here are some ways employers can create a supportive environment:
- Provide dedicated breastfeeding rooms: Employers should provide clean, comfortable, and private spaces for mothers to express milk. These rooms should be equipped with comfortable seating, electrical outlets for breast pumps, and refrigeration facilities for storing expressed milk.It is important to note that there have been a number of successful Employment Tribunal claims for indirect sex discrimination where employers have been found to have a practice of not providing suitable facilities for women who are breastfeeding, or who want to express milk.
- Offer flexible working arrangements on a temporary basis : Employers can consider offering flexible work schedules or allow mothers to work from home to accommodate their breastfeeding needs. This flexibility can help mothers maintain their milk supply and reduce stress.
- Educate and train employees: Employers should educate their employees about the benefits of breastfeeding and create a culture of support and understanding. Training sessions can help dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding and create a more inclusive and supportive workplace. Awareness can also be promoted through family friendly policies.
Breastfeeding is a natural and important part of motherhood, and working mothers should be supported in their decision to breastfeed. Going back to work may be the first time a mother has been separated from their baby for long periods. Continuing to breastfeed is one way to maintain a close relationship, comfort and security for both mother and baby. By creating a supportive environment in the workplace, employers can help working mothers continue breastfeeding, leading to healthier babies, happier mothers, and a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture. All of these encourage staff loyalty and the organisation often benefiting from the skills of the employee returning sooner than they might otherwise do so.