Archive | Breastfeeding in the Workplace

Pumped Up: Supporting Nursing Moms at Work

When Brandon Wright, store manager for Goodwill Industries in Lafayette, IN, learnedworkplace1 that two of his employees were pregnant, he wasted no time letting them know that if they planned to breastfeed, he would provide them with time and space to express milk at work. For Wright, the conversation was more than merely complying with FLSA requirements under the Affordable Care Act; it was about doing the right thing to support valuable employees and help their children get a good start in life. His employees said they appreciated the easy way he began the conversation and instantly established that their family needs would be respected.

Wright found simple accommodations for Melissa and Jessilyn once they returned to work. A clean storage area was made available for them to express milk in privacy, and a simple hand-written sign was placed outside the door to indicate when it was in use. The employees took their usual breaks, and maintained open communication with their supervisor to assure that things worked well for everyone.workplace2

Wright says, “It wasn’t hard at all. It didn’t affect my day to day operations at all.” What he says it did affect was employee morale. “They [my employees] came to work knowing we respected what their rights were as women. They’re still here. I’ve retained them. I think it’s good.”

The Lafayette Goodwill store is one of thousands of companies across America who have found similar easy, low-cost solutions to supporting nursing moms at work, and are enjoying bottom-line benefits of longer retention, lower absenteeism rates due to healthier infants, and improved employee productivity. They are one of 200 companies in 29 U.S. states featured in a brand new online searchable resource for human resource managers launched at the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Florida.

The resource, Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions, was developed workplace3by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. It features hundreds of solutions for businesses in all 22 industry categories, including challenging environments such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, manufacturing plants, and many others. Videos and over a thousand photos are included to highlight workable options in virtually every type of work setting.

According to Ursuline Singleton, the OWH project officer, the project is designed to give employers a wide range of options and solutions. “We know that Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers of hourly workers to provide time and space for nursing women at work. We also know that many employers simply don’t know how to do that, and need practical solutions. We established this resource to show them how it’s done all across America. We took some of the most difficult job environments and provide options that are low-cost and easy to implement.”

To learn more, visit the new website at:

by Cathy Carothers, BLA, IBCLC, FILCA

Cathy 7-6-14-crCathy is co-director of Every Mother, Inc. and project director for Every Mother’s contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health workplace lactation initiatives. She is the author of the HHS Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Business Case for Breastfeeding, and was lead trainer for state-based training events in 36 U.S. states. She is past president of ILCA, immediate past chair of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, and chair of the Monetary Investment for Lactation Consultant Certification (MILCC). An experienced trainer and speaker, she has provided training programs in every U.S. state and territory and several foreign countries. She is a Fellow of ILCA and an IBCLC since 1996. She was recently honored by the National WIC Association with their 2014 National Leadership Award in the “Friend of WIC” category.

photo credit: Anne Schollenberger

Did your workplace overcome a unique challenge to support lactating families? Please share with us in the comments!


Combining Work and Breastfeeding: Successful Strategies and Tools

By Wendy Wright, MBA, IBCLC

Photo by Jerry Bunkers via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Jerry Bunkers via Flickr Creative Commons

In May 2012, I had the opportunity to contribute “Pumping Strategies for the Working Mother” to Lactation Matters. We have had tremendous interest and discussion on this topic, so let’s explore the topic a bit further.

Over the past several years, I have helped hundreds of breastfeeding women in the work force and have found three tools that provide the most help to working mothers:

  1. Creating a breastfeeding calendar
  2. Hands on pumping
  3. Childcare provider education around breastmilk feeding

Creating a Breastfeeding Calendar

Most mothers intending to breastfeed have their due date and back to work date firmly in place on their calendars, so, what about adding other dates that can assist in scheduling and milk supply forecasting? At each Back-To-Work Breastfeeding class I teach we have an exercise where we pull out our calendars, and actually import important dates into them for enhancing breastfeeding success. Here are the dates I help women to import:

  • Due Date: We discuss the importance of being ready, finishing important work projects in plenty of time and handing off responsibilities so there are no last minute phone calls from the hospital.
  • 11-day Growth Spurt: Many new mothers are not aware of this growth spurt and often interpret it as “my baby is not getting enough milk.” By marking it on their calendar, they are more likely to remember being warned about this 11 day push to increase volume and take in stride with greater confidence in their breastfeeding abilities.
  • Three-week growth spurt: Initiating pumping after this growth spurt is a great way to minimize the breastfeeding burden on the mother during the first few weeks. I encourage mothers to allow their infants to “program” their milk supply for the first three weeks, until the growth spurt, and then take on pumping for storage and bottle introduction.
  • Initiate pumping (3 – 4 weeks): A great time to learn about the pump, work pumping into daily routine and begin milk storage for return to work.
  • Introducing a bottle (4 weeks): Breastfeeding should be well established by this point, and the return to work is on the horizon, bottles should be small and only once a day at most but again, once baby takes a bottle, mother’s confidence is enhanced as the return to work grows closer.
  • Return to work date: Other dates, if appropriate or helpful, can be incorporated here as well, such as: secure childcare, test childcare, practice days for returning to work or part time return to work days to get caught up on items missed during leave.
  • Three month growth spurt: Good to have this on the work calendar – mothers often become fearful about supply during this growth spurt, “How can I possibly pump that much?” Once they realize it is only temporary, breastfeeding confidence again return.
  • Introduction of solids (around 6 months): This is a great relief for fully breastfeeding, working mothers. Just knowing that if a meeting runs late or traffic is terrible, the baby can enjoy avocado or banana until the mother returns home tends to lessen stress around milk supply. Milk is of course still the primary source of nutrition yet the stress about exclusivity is reduced as solids are introduced.

Hands-On Pumping

Teaching hand expression and hands on pumping to mothers returning to work can ensure milk supply when the mother and baby are separated. Jane Morton, MD provides a helpful video and has found that adding breast massage and hands on pumping increased mothers’ average daily volumes by 48%.2 This additional pumped milk may make the difference in breastmilk exclusivity for the first six months of life especially once the stress and fatigue of returning to work set in for the very busy working mothers.

Child Provider Education Around Breastmilk Feeding

In California, by three months of age, 41% of mothers are breastfeeding, this means 59% are not. Due to this statistic, many of the care providers in our state have limited experience handling breastmilk. Here are some questions I arm my clients with as they select the care providers for their breastfed infants:

  • Are you familiar with the latest milk storage guidelines?
  • Will you refrigerate and reuse any leftover breastmilk? Let her know the re-use parameters you’re comfortable with, if any (for example, two hours).
  • Will you store a back up supply of my breastmilk in your freezer?
  • Do you require all parents to clearly label milk containers to avoid mix-ups?
  • Will you check with me before supplementing with formula?

I hope these three simple tools help the mothers you are working with ensure success as they return to work while breastfeeding. Anticipatory guidance with the calendar and careful childcare selection along with increasing parental confidence with enhanced breastmilk supply utilizing hands on pumping should help all mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.


La Leche League’s, “The Breastfeeding Answer Book” (1997) by Nancy Mohrbacher,
IBCLC and Julie Stock, BA, IBCLC

Morton J, Hall JY, Wong RJ, Thairu L, Benitz WE, Rhone WD. Combining hand
techniques with electric pumping increases milk production in mothers of preterm
infants. J Perinatol. 2009, July 2.

WEndy WrightWendy Wright, MBA, IBCLC spent 15 years in the biotech industry in the Bay Area and worldwide prior to breaking out on her own and founding Lactation Navigation in 2007. Wendy has a B.S. in Health Services Administration from the University of Arizona and an MBA with a Marketing emphasis from the University of Cincinnati. Wendy’s daughter is 13 and her son is five; both, of course, were breastfed! Lactation Navigation allows Wendy to combine skills learned in the corporate setting over the past 15 years with her love of breastfeeding. It allows her to spend time with her children and also with new mothers. It also encourages health and happiness for other families, and brings bottom-line profits to progressive companies.


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