Building breastfeeding-friendly environment: Tips for employers and managers to support breastfeeding mothers at work - Hindustan Times
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Building breastfeeding-friendly environment: Tips for employers and managers to support breastfeeding mothers at work

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 19, 2024 01:28 PM IST

Empowering breastfeeding employees in office: Tips for employers and managers on 3 essential accommodations every workplace should have

Breastfeeding is normal and it has lots of health benefits for mom and baby but how to support breastfeeding mothers, especially at workplace, is a crucial concern. Read on as we explore how your workplace can create accommodations for lactating mothers as there are different laws that support breastfeeding for working moms.

Building breastfeeding-friendly environment: Tips for employers and managers to support breastfeeding mothers at work (Image by Freepik)
Building breastfeeding-friendly environment: Tips for employers and managers to support breastfeeding mothers at work (Image by Freepik)

According to WHO, breastfeeding up to 2 years of age is recommended as this will also help to build the immunity of the baby and results in less leaves by the employee. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Kavita Singh, Lactation Consultant and Womens Health Physiotherpist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in New Delhi suggested that as a breastfeeding mother - talk to your employers to ensure employers follows breastfeeding laws and guidelines and spread the word about the benefits of breastfeeding with friends, family and in social media to create more awareness to your employers.

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For employers to be fully supportive of their breastfeeding employees, Kavita Singh recommended that three pieces should be in place and a good place to start is, reviewing some sort of self-assessment that covers policy, time and space -

1. The first piece is a policy or a set of guidelines.

This should document the guaranteed time and space for milk expression and outline the expectations of the work environment. Policy or guidelines can include other items such as guidance on communication or maintenance of the lactation space. Some work sites may have a policy allowing infants in the workplace. Information about lactation policies and infant at work policies should be discussed and informed prior joining after maternity leaves. In addition to creating written guidelines for welcoming breastfeeding parents and staff and volunteers should receive guidance and why this is important and how to address potential customer concerns.

2. The second piece is guaranteed time during the work day for milk expression.

Allow lactation breaks after every 3-4 hour within an 8-hour shift for at least one year after childbirth. Lactation breaks are considered paid working time. No proof of breastfeeding is required. Staff are not expected to work for longer hours. To make up for the time spent on milk, expression. Some considerations when creating a pumping schedule include the distance between the workstation and the lactation space, the length of the employees shift, and the time needed for setting up and cleaning up the breast pump and parts. The frequency and length will depend on the employees needs and can change over time. Some workplaces allow a caregiver to bring the infant to the workspace during the parent’s breaks so they can breastfeed instead of pump. Employees and supervisors can work together with scheduling spaces and communicating with co-workers who are also pumping.

3. The third piece is a private lactation space that is not a toilet or a bathroom stall.

This can be a room dedicated only for milk expression or can be provided for milk expression during the pumping hours. You just need to provide an area for your breastfeeding staff where privacy is maintained. It does not have to be a large space, but privacy is the key. Even a small room can be transformed into a designated lactation room, where appropriate environment for milk expression is provided. It should be clean, with a comfortable chair with a back rest. A small table for placing items is needed during breast milk expression. A power socket for plugging in breast pumps. Make sure it is conveniently located without being hidden by furniture. Don't forget a door lock from the inside. A sink, liquid soap or alcohol hand rub and storage lockers are great options too. Make sure breastfeeding mother feel comfortable in that room. If designating a lactation room is impossible, try using other resources like any common spaces can be flexibly used like to transform a conference room into a lactation room. Make the most out of areas such as conference or multi-function rooms. You can reserve time slots for breastfeeding employees on a temporary basis. To transform a corner into a lactation corner with a screen, or set up a screen or curtain in a clean, quiet corner for expressing breast milk. Make sure clear signage such as occupied or mummy's time, is displayed. No toilets or restrooms should be provided as pumping area for hygiene reasons. If all the above are not feasible, allow your breastfeeding staff to visit community baby care rooms or lactation rooms nearby during lactation breaks. For breast milk storage, a mini pantry fridge or a cool box will be helpful. A separate fridge for storing breast milk is not a must. However, do pay attention to food hygiene. Reserve space for breast milk, such as the top inner shelf, which is clean and safe. Just these few steps can make your breastfeeding staff feel supported. It will be a great change and encouragement for her breastfeeding journey.

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