Workplace lactation policies are good for everyone – children, parents, employers, and society. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity, as well as infections and illnesses in infants, and lowers the risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis for mothers. Providing a breastfeeding-friendly workplace doesn’t only make sense for babies and moms, it also makes business sense. Businesses with lactation policies enjoy lower turnover rates, lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism and higher employee productivity and morale. Additionally, treating diseases and conditions preventable by breastfeeding costs insurers at least $3.6 billion each year.
The Workplace Lactation program increased the number of worksites that accommodate and support lactating mothers returning to work, and that adopt and implement breastfeeding/lactation policies. Breastfeeding is the first defense against obesity, yet many mothers returning to work are not provided a reasonable amount of break time or access to clean, private spaces for lactation. We worked with employers, school principals, school district personnel, Human Resource managers, facility’s maintenance managers and policy-makers at all levels to help change this.
The Workplace Lactation program worked with 15 low-income businesses, 10 other businesses, and 7 school districts. We provided information, resources, training, education and materials to assist the worksites and schools in implementing lactation policies and creating a supportive environment for their employees.
Watkins Manufacturing, located in Vista, California, is a low-income worksite with a large number of Spanish speaking employees that worked with the Workplace Lactation program. They adopted a lactation policy, provided signage in English and Spanish for their existing lactation room, and obtained materials and resources in English and Spanish. Upon making these changes, Watkins Manufacturing applied for the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Award and won in 2011.
The Workplace Lactation program also worked with the California School Board Association (CSBA), a collaboration of over 1,000 school districts and county offices of education throughout California. The CSBA developed sample policy for school districts throughout the state to utilize in their own lactation programs. The CSBA sent the policy to all of their members and extended the use of the policy to non-members as well. Implementing policy is the best way to make a lactation program sustainable.
For more information on Lactation Supportive Environments, contact Naomi Billups or visit UC San Diego-Center for Community Health Lactation Supportive Environments web page.