Despite the incredible health benefits breastfeeding provides, some women discontinue breastfeeding (or wean their newborns early) because of challenges faced when breast pumping and returning to work. If this is the case, we might have a few easy steps towards creating your own breastfeeding-friendly workplace.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a great (and convenient) tool for both employees and managers. The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Steps for Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace is available online at http://ask.hrsa.gov/detail_materials.cfm?ProdID=4121. There is a series of publications, each geared specifically for either staff or management, and the specific roles each should play to create the best possible breastfeeding-friendly work environment.
The employees guide emphasizes the importance of preparation. Start talking with your employers during pregnancy about any concerns you may anticipate and your future breastfeeding plans. Human resources may be good area to discuss possible quiet, private locations to express milk; or maybe even direct you to other working moms that went through this process already.
While on maternity leave, take this time (what very little time you may have) to get familiar with your milk production. What times do you have the most milk? Familiarizing yourself, or possibly getting on a schedule may help with regular milk production and storage opportunities.
When returning to work, hopefully you have a pre-determined private lactation room. This may be an office with a lock (and blinds!), or maybe a small conference room, or even a well-lit storage closet. If using an electric breast pump, make sure the room has an available outlet. If you haven’t had the chance to prepare, ask a human resources representative to help you find a good place! (Note: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mentions that restrooms are NOT a good place for expressing milk. They are unsanitary, usually don’t have available outlets, and stalls are too small (not to mention awkward) for proper pumping.)
In addition to a private location, a place for milk storage is also needed.