SCHA recently installed a mother's lounge that provides a clean, private, comfortable space for nursing employees and conference center visitors to express milk for their babies during the workday. SCHA received funding from the Healthy South Carolina Initiative (HSCI) to furnish the room, implement a lactation support policy and educate staff on the importance of breastfeeding and available resources. SCHA, now deemed as a "Mother-Friendly" organization, funded the construction. The policy allows employees adequate break time and flexible scheduling for expressing milk for up to 12 months after their baby’s birth date. Returning to work after maternity leave is one of the primary reasons that women quit breastfeeding due to lack of support, adequate break time and a clean and private space to express milk during the work day.
"Coming back to work, I had so much on my mind and that is one less thing I had to worry about, finding a place that I can tend to the needs of my child," said SCHA administrative coordinator Meagan Murphy. "And it is so beautiful and relaxing too! I cannot wait to show the next mother in need the fabulous room SCHA has designated for them."
Breastfeeding has been shown to be the best form of infant nutrition, providing a multitude of health benefits to both infants and mothers. Breastfeeding boosts infant immunity through the transfer of maternal antibodies. It can reduce a child’s risk of infant death, developing certain childhood cancers, as well as many diseases that strike later in life such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and inflammatory bowel disease. Infants who are breastfed are also less likely to become obese in later years. Breastfeeding benefits the mother by helping with postpartum weight loss and reducing the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. It is also less expensive than formula feeding.
Breastfeeding provides positive business results for employers, such as reduced healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism, improved productivity and lower turnover. According to the SC Breastfeeding Coalition, more than 50 percent of adult women are now in the workforce. Two-thirds of new employees will be women starting or returning to work and 75 percent of working women become pregnant during their working lives. It’s essential that employers understand the importance of supporting lactating mothers in the workplace. They should also be aware that federal law requires employers to provide “reasonable” break time and a private space, other than a restroom, for employees to express breast milk at work until their baby turns one year old.
SCHA’s mother’s lounge is equipped with a comfortable chair, a table on which to place a breast pump, a mini fridge for safe milk storage, a door that locks from the inside to ensure privacy, a sign that indicates when the room is occupied, a mirror which helps employees to adjust their clothing before returning to work and cork boards for moms to post pictures of their babies (which can actually help to stimulate milk production). The room is also stocked with supplies such as cleaning wipes for pump parts, nursing pads, lanolin and hand sanitizer. The room is located directly beside the women’s restroom so moms will have easy access to soap and running water.
If you would like to find out more information on how your organization can support breastfeeding employees, visit these resources:
The Business Case for Breastfeeding, Health Resources and Services Administration
Investing in Workplace Breastfeeding Programs and Policies, National Business Group on Health
Breastfeeding Policies at Work, WomensHealth.gov
To learn more about the Mother-Friendly Designation Program in SC, visit the SC Breastfeeding Coalition’s website. If your organization is currently participating in the Working Well initiative, you may contact Emily O’Sullivan, Working Well Corporate Wellness Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-454-6969 for additional support and consultation around implementing a lactation room and lactation support policy at your worksite.