Business

Businesses benefit from breastfeeding-friendly workplace

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Employers who provide a space where employees can express and store breast milk or breastfeed a baby quickly realize the benefits of doing so.

According to the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, employers who comply with state and federal laws requiring them to provide a clean and private space for lactating mothers and to offer flexible break time so mothers can breastfeed or pump milk experience less absenteeism, lower health care costs and turnover rates, plus higher productivity, employee loyalty and positive community perception.

"Absences due to infant illness occur twice as often among parents whose infants are not breastfed," the task force says on its website, Breastfeedingnm.org.

There's evidence to back this assertion. The American Academy of Pediatricians' website notes that human milk provides not only nutrients but also "many substances that benefit (the) baby's immune system," all of which protect against common childhood infections and other illnesses well beyond infancy.

The task force works to convince businesses that supporting a breastfeeding employee is well worth whatever temporary inconvenience it might cause.

"Businesses tend to think it will be a bigger cost than it is," said Monica Esparza, task force program manager. Businesses don't have to carve out a new space for breastfeeding mothers, she noted. As long as they have a designated place, they comply with the law.

New Mexico state law is more comprehensive than federal law and applies to both salaried and hourly employees, according to Esparza.

The task force encourages managers to talk with expectant mothers about how the business will support their desire to continue breastfeeding their babies when they return from maternity leave by:

Providing a private, nearby space, such as an unused office, where moms can feed their babies or pump breast milk to feed the baby after work. Offering the employee a work schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate lactation breaks. This might involve having coworkers cover for the employee while she's on break. Providing a clean, cool place where a mother can store expressed milk for the limited time that she's breastfeeding.Developing a lactation policy and making sure all managers, supervisors and employees understand and follow it. More resources or solutions are available at womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/employersolutions/index.html.

For help establishing a successful lactation program, employers can contact the organization at (505) 395-6455 or contact@breastfeedingnm.org.

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