The challenges faced by nursing mothers at work, especially those in hourly, lower-wage positions, are very real. We know that 77 percent of mothers in retail or lower-wage jobs give up breastfeeding after returning to work. This is because continuing to breastfeed at work is so difficult– especially for those who don’t have access to a clean or private place to pump milk, scheduling flexibility to do so, or a supportive manager.

Health care reform was intended to address this problem last year– for the first time, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to require employers to provide nonexempt nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a sanitary, private space, that is not a bathroom, to pump milk at work. While this new federal law spotlighted an important health issue and helped remove the workplace as a barrier to breastfeeding, there is still much to be done to educate businesses about lactation programs and workplace support for nursing mothers.

Indeed, although we now have a federal workplace lactation provision on the books, only 28 percent of businesses have lactation programs. And, according to a survey conducted for Corporate Voices by Public Policy Polling, with generous support from Workplace Options, 57 percent of people are not aware of the new federal workplace lactation law.

Given that mothers with infants are one of the largest and fastest-growing segments in the workforce, particularly in lower-wage industries, helping to support nursing mothers at work is a priority for the economic security and health of mothers, infants and working families in America.

We also know that there is a business case for breastfeeding. Best practice employers have long known that work-life supports like lactation programs improve bottom-line results. Through improved recruitment, retention, productivity and lower health care costs, supporting nursing mothers at work makes good business sense.

Stephen M. Wing, president of Corporate Voices, said,

“Employers that recognize the business benefits of breastfeeding play a critical role in promoting economic self-sufficiency among lower-wage working families—especially vital during these tough economic times. But along with recognizing the benefits of breastfeeding, employers need resources and tools to implement successful lactation programs, which is why we have rereleased our lactation toolkit.”

Indeed, Corporate Voices for Working Families has produced a free, high-quality and up-to-date online workplace lactation toolkit for employers to help them comply with the new law and establish lactation programs to support their nursing mothers. Titled “Healthy Babies Make Happy Moms and Excellent Employees,” the toolkit includes:

  • Employer talking points to help facilitate a conversation about breastfeeding
  • Lactation room checklists and worksheets
  • Breastfeeding resources fliers supervisors can give to employees
  • Breastfeeding tips and techniques in 21 languages
  • Break Room and Lactation Room posters
  • Success stories, and more!

By making these tools and resources available, and by highlighting what works across industries, Corporate Voices aims to close the gap in lactation support, help working families and help businesses become more competitive in the 21st century.

(Corporate Voices plans to conduct a targeted outreach campaign to raise awareness about this toolkit in the employer, health professional, non-profit and advocacy communities. If you are interested in helping spread the word about this toolkit or to learn more about Corporate Voices’ workplace lactation program, contact Yvonne Siu.)