Breastfeeding and work: Let’s make it work

Supporting nursing mothers in the workplace.

  • Increased resistance to infection and disease
  • Less likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and asthma
  • Less risk of developing ear infections
  • Fewer dental cavities
  • Lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer among women

The above list represent just a few of the many benefits associated with breastfeeding. For women who choose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, support from their employer is critical. Benefits of breastfeeding extends into the workplace and allows for healthy, happy and productive staff.

The first week of August marked World Breastfeeding Week. The theme, “Breastfeeding and work: Let’s make it work,” focuses on how employers can support women who chose to continue nursing their baby after returning to work. Research has shown that mothers with full-time jobs outside of the home can negatively influence the length in which she breastfeeds. Some cited barriers include lack of privacy and time to express breast milk and perceptions of decreased productivity. Employers who recognize these potential roadblocks and work towards shaping a positive environment for returning mothers contribute to maternal, infant and family health while also supporting their bottom line.

So how do employers benefit? Breastfeeding is associated with greater employee loyalty and retention. refers to these “family-friendly benefits as a three to one return on investment through lower health care costs, lower employee absteneeism, lower turnover rates, and higher employee productivity.

Looking for resources? The Office of Women’s Health provides a number of tools for employers from various types of industries to reference and consider. From retail, food service, or mining – this online resource suggests strategies for breastfeeding promotion for any industry setting. The Common Solutions tab provides ways worksites can provide time and space for milk expression – offering videos and pictures of permanent or mobile sites. This resource from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention highlights effective breastfeeding intervention strateiges to support breastfeeding women and increase breastfeeding rates.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit these additional Michigan State University Extension articles:

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