Guest article from MINES’ Lactation Coaching Partner Viktoriya Yurkovetskiy from Corporate Breastfeeding Support (www.corporatebreastfeedingsupport.com)
With August being National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, it is timely to celebrate all new families who go above and beyond with feeding their babies in these challenging times. No matter the type of milk we choose for our newborns, it is not always easy.
Recent months have also proven that infant feeding is not immune to supply chain and other economic challenges. Not having the food for our babies readily available is a daunting and unnerving experience.
With that in mind, feeding babies breast milk would seem like the logical and best thing to do. One would think there are no supply shortages or geopolitical events that could disrupt the process. Breastfeeding, however, comes with its own challenges and obstacles.
Breastfeeding is defined as the process of feeding a baby breast milk, direct or via a device. It is the process of delivering breast milk from the lactating parent to the baby. Breastfeeding is known to bring along a number of health benefits for both parents and infants.
World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding a baby exclusively for 6 months and then along with complementary solid foods till 2 years of age.
Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation was exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life and then along with solids till their first birthday. While having recently updated its guidelines and now acknowledging that there are continued benefits from breastfeeding for up to 2 years, AAP also recognizes that not everyone can breastfeed for that long for various reasons, including “workplace barriers.”
“Families deserve nonjudgmental support, information, and help to guide them in feeding their infant.” AAP recognizes that having policies that protect breastfeeding, providing a clean, private space for expressing milk, having a good break time system in place and available lactation support are all essential ways an organization can support families in sustaining breastfeeding.
Creating a wellness-centered corporate breastfeeding support program for employees does not require major investment, but does deliver a considerable reduction in the cost of health care and turnover rates for the company. It also serves as an attractive incentive in the talent acquisition process.
There are several aspects that a well-rounded lactation support program encompasses and if you are just getting started or thinking of revamping the support system currently in place, below are some helpful tips:
Tip #1: Call on your company’s health insurance provider.
Check with your insurance provider for lactation services coverage. Depending on what this coverage is, an organization can build a lactation support program on it and appreciably develop it.
Among other services, most insurance companies now fully cover or partially subsidize a breast pump purchase, which is a huge added benefit for families returning to work after childbirth.
Tip #2: Get your company EAP to work.
Check with your EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for lactation support and services. While most EAP companies are focused on providing emotional and psychological support, there are some industry innovators who recognize the vital role breastfeeding wellbeing plays in employee’s job performance.
Inquire with your EAP. This is how change is initiated.
(Note: MINES EAP offers employees and members parental coaching services and breastfeeding consultation support as a standard part of the core EAP features.)
Tip #3: Perform company policy inventory.
Review existing company policies to see what is currently in place for lactation support.
It is legally required that an organization provides a minimum of reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk and a shielded private place other than a bathroom to do so.
What is your company’s approach to meeting these legal requirements? What is currently in place at the HQ and field offices? Is there a thorough understanding within the company leadership team of what these legal requirements mean and how to act on them?
Tip #4: Mind new families.
Try to understand where new parents are coming from in their needs. The milk-making process is strongly conditioned by the mental and emotional state of a lactating parent.
Environment and setting play a big role in how much time away from their desk the new parent will spend. A stress-free supportive environment and comfort measures that promote relaxation and care-free pumping will increase productivity and morale.
Tip #5: It’s field trip time!
Go on a field trip and gather information from employees on what policies and provisions are in place to support new families. Then compare your findings with #3. There is a high chance these two may differ. If that’s the case, here is the next tip for you.
Tip #6: Loop them in.
Oftentimes employees are not aware of all the benefits provided by the company. It makes sense to review organizational policies and procedures periodically and disseminate information throughout the organization.
Is there a well-constructed welcome back kit that goes to every new family informing them about the benefits and services available? Are there timely updates to the employee handbook outlining options and offerings? Is feedback from employees routinely collected and reviewed?
Tip #7: Be the industry leader, the trendsetter, and the front runner.
Providing support to new families goes long way in creating a loyal, productive, and satisfied team. There are many ways to show that the organization cares. Some are standard, and some are outside-of-the-box solutions.
As families are warming up to their new social roles as parents, ensure their return to work is seamless and timely by providing covered lactation services, breast milk shipping, on-site daycare, welcome back care boxes, on-site breastfeeding education and support, flexible schedules, and a way to connect with other new families within the organization – to name a few.
Tip #8: Implement, listen, tweak.
End-users of the program should have a say. Listen to what the ask is and deliver accordingly. There is no point in creating a program that no one will ever use. There is also no point in excessive spending on bells and whistles that won’t be utilized. Have an easy process of feedback collection and review in place. Ask often, and tweak accordingly.
Tip #9: Reap the benefits of your excellent work and enjoy the ROI.
As employers are continuing to figure out what their company profile is going to be in these post-pandemic times and adjusting to the hybrid work environment, whether you bring employees back to the office or allow flexibility, companies caring for the families and wellness of their employees will gain competitive advantage.
These organizations will create a positive public image for the company and enjoy reduced cost of health care, lower rates of absenteeism, improved retention rates, loyalty, morale, and job satisfaction, and will have no difficulty in attracting top talent.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team
American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-calls-for-more-support-for-breastfeeding-mothers-within-updated-policy-recommendations/#:~:text=The%20American%20Academy%20of%20Pediatrics,mothers%20who%20choose%20to%20breastfeed.
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2