Creating an Inclusive Workplace Culture for Breastfeeding Parents
By: Sascha Mayer, Mamava Co-founder
Workplaces are increasingly focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts to ensure a culture that’s empathetic and welcoming to a range of people, life experiences, perspectives, and needs. Not only does making DEI a priority benefit employees, but it’s also good for business by improving employee retention and overall sense of belonging. While DEI efforts are critical in strategic planning, they can also help shape the physical workplace and organizational culture. A key aspect of any DEI effort is to create a workplace that works for breastfeeding employees. In addition to family-friendly policies such as flexible schedules, remote work options, and paid parental leave, employers who are breastfeeding-inclusive do the following.
Provide a dedicated lactation space.
Breastfeeding parents need a clean and private space to express milk at work. In addition to federal law (and many state laws) that require employers to provide a space that’s not a bathroom, providing a dedicated lactation space sends a strong message of support to your entire organization. Go beyond what’s required by providing a lactation space that’s comfortable, relaxing, close to where employees work, and includes the small touches that breastfeeding parents appreciate—like a mirror, outlets for a breast pump, and pumping supplies.
Communicate lactation accommodation policies.
Putting your organization’s lactation accommodation policies and protocols in writing—and regularly sharing them in communications with all employees—sets expectations about employee rights and underscores that inclusivity is a priority for your organization.
Support a parent-focused employee resource group (ERG).
It really does take a village to raise a child, so the more support, encouragement, and counsel breastfeeding parents have, the better. Supporting an ERG dedicated to working parents is an important opportunity to make sure that breastfeeding employees have the mentors and cheerleaders they need to succeed, both at work and at home.
Normalize pumping at work.
Breastfeeding employees need break time to pump and lactation spaces to pump in, but they also need a workplace culture that normalizes breastfeeding. This means ensuring that all employees—not just those who are parents—understand why pumping is essential to maintain milk supply and cultivating a culture that respects a breastfeeding employee’s commitment. Sometimes it just takes understanding why scheduling all-day blocks of back-to-back meetings makes work life so difficult for breastfeeding parents to stop doing it.