Motherhood places many new hardships onto a female, including the decision to stay home to take care of a child or to return to work. For mothers looking to return to work, a huge deciding factor is whether or not she chooses to breastfeed her baby. Pumping breast milk at work is often a highly uncomfortable situation, especially when a women must find a private area in which to hook herself up to a suction in order to provide nourishment for her child. These womae often feel a great sense of anxiety over having to step away from their jobs everyday along with a desire to spend more time with their babies.
While this situation might sound less than ideal, some companies have made the breastfeeding experience even worse for women by not providing them with the opportunity to breastfeed at all. Without a sense of support at work, women are likely to stop breastfeeding all together.
In a recent study published in Women’s Health Issues journal, it was found that only 40% of women who return to work after the birth of their child have access to both a private space and a break time in order to collect breast milk. The study concluded that employed women have much lower rates of initiating breastfeeding due to these inconveniences.
Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” for workers to collect breast milk. The act does state an exemption for certain employers if that can prove that complying with this provision is a hardship to the company.
In most cases, it is in a company’s best interest to support breastfeeding because of the many health benefits it provides to a child. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, mothers who feel supported to breastfeed by their employers are less likely to quit their jobs. Also, breastfed babies are less likely to get sick, and thus, new mothers who breastfeed are less likely to need to take days off to care for their baby.
For the women who choose to breastfeed after returning to work, they can talk to supervisors or the human resources department to explain what they need their company to do to make their experience comfortable. If a woman begins having problems with her employer over breastfeeding after returning to work, they can contact the Department of Labor to file a complaint and initiate an investigation.
Employed women are already offered little time for maternity leave, making it that much more important that women can continue to breastfeed while working without backlash from employers.
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