4 Easy Ways to Support Breastfeeding Employees
Parents returning to work after a baby are often in a haze juggling new responsibilities and postpartum challenges. As they contemplate whether to continue breastfeeding, they’re wondering: What’s even possible? Where and how will I pump? Will I be judged or fully supported? In our recent Kin survey, nursing moms were candid about what matters most when they return to work. We found that 97% plan to continue feeding breast milk,¹ and employers who prioritize open communication, flexibility and giving parents the right tools are earning high marks.
Send clear signals to foster a family-friendly workplace
Employers who signal that they care about their caregiving employees send a clear message about their commitment to building family-friendly cultures. Returning parents may feel self-conscious about taking breaks to pump or fear they’ll be perceived as slacking. Studies show working mothers in particular worry about being penalized for family responsibilities and only 56% of caregivers report that they’re comfortable even sharing such details with supervisors.² Our survey results show that open communication with employees goes a long way in building trust and loyalty.
What moms say:
- What went well was that my employer and team were very comfortable talking about pumping and never made me feel pressured to do anything a certain way. They all lovingly worked around my needs during the months I chose to pump.
- I was privileged to be comfortable breastfeeding in public from the start and had the support and respect of my colleagues.
- It’s been wonderful! Everyone is very supportive and they’ve given me my own little area to pump and I can go whenever I need to.
Empower managers to work through the details
We learned that the power of communication from an employee’s manager cannot be underestimated. Even the most thorough lactation policy can be hampered if an employee isn’t receiving full support on the ground. And since 38% of moms surveyed were not sure what, if any, breastfeeding support is offered at their workplace,³ the time to begin that conversation is before the birth of baby to avoid any mixed messages.
What moms say:
- My manager has been more than amazing. He said upon my return to work that I could do whatever I needed to feed my baby. He’s kept his word for 6 months now and I don’t expect this to change.
- My employer told me to take breaks whenever I needed and that it did not matter if meetings were scheduled. I had a right to step away. They also have a special locked room only for breastfeeding moms. We work together to determine what schedule works best for us. They have a desk set up but told me that I was not required to work but I could if I wanted to.
- My employer provides a lactation room equipped with a fridge, sink, two private pumping stations and hospital-grade pumps. My supervisors have been very supportive and have given me freedom in finding the time to pump.
Stay flexible to meet individual needs
If there’s one constant in breastfeeding, it’s that every mom’s journey is different. The best lactation programs allow for flexibility in the what, where and when of pumping. Flexibility is a major premium for women, with 49% citing it as one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company. For women aged 30 and under, 76% say flexibility has become more important to them over the past two years and two thirds would be more interested in advancing at a company if they see senior leaders with the work-life balance they seek.⁴
What moms say:
- There was only one lactation room available and 4 moms trying to pump when I returned to work. But my employer was great and opened up more rooms for pumping and even made my office more private so I could pump in there.
- I’m very blessed at my workplace. They have a dedicated room on each floor for pumping mothers that has a sink, comfortable chair and refrigerator. I’m allowed to pump when I need without any problems and have never received any pushback.
- I’m currently working from home so I’ve been able to be very flexible and relaxed with my pumping schedule. If I have to return to the office, there are mothers’ rooms available and policies in place to protect my time to pump.
Support moms with the right tools for success
Our work creating lactation programs shows that employers are opting for a more comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of nursing moms and supporting DEI goals. Standard benefits include multi-user, hospital-grade pumps; private, dignified lactation spaces; refrigeration and stringent hygiene protocols; flexible pumping break times; 24/7 virtual support; and other education resources for both employers and parents. Another trend we’re seeing is that employers are also providing personal use pumps for added convenience or moms who travel.
What moms say:
- We have lactation rooms on every floor of our offices that are equipped with hospital-grade pumps, sinks, mini refrigerators, cleaning supplies, mothers’ milk teas and nursing pads/storage bags.
- I travel to various locations, so I’m mostly pumping in my car. What has worked well are tools such as the wipes for breast pump parts to keep my parts clean as I travel.
- The one thing that has made breastfeeding great for me are the portable, wearable breast pumps.
¹ The Moms’ Thoughts on Breastfeeding in the News survey was conducted by Kin and Medela in October 2022 and included more than 2,500 qualified respondents of new or expectant mothers
² Caregiving Statistics, Family Caregiver Alliance
³ Ibid 1
⁴ Women in the Workplace Study, Lean In & McKinsey, 2022