Updated: Sep 16, 2020
A new baby may bring a lot of joy to a mom’s personal life, but it can also add stress when she transitions back to work after maternity leave. Employers can help increase retention of their working moms when they proactively provide them with the support they need to continue to feed breast milk to their baby. In fact, employees whose companies provide breastfeeding support consistently report improved morale, better satisfaction with their jobs, and higher productivity. 
Recently, a survey of more than 2,000 working moms found that a majority of women feel they lack the support they need to continue breast milk feeding when they return to work after baby.  The survey, conducted by Medela, Mamava, and Milk Stork – the partners behind New Moms’ Healthy Returns— sought to better understand the challenges breastfeeding mothers face when returning to work, and what employers can do to make it easier.
Here are three essential things employers can do to demonstrate their support for employees when they transition back to work after having a baby.
Flexible Pumping Schedule
Giving new moms flexibility when they return from maternity leave can be a game-changer. According to the New Moms’ Healthy Returns (NMHR) survey, 68 percent of women said that lack of time to utilize their breast pump at work or the stress of pumping enough breast milk at work for baby were the hardest pumping challenges.
The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for non-exempt (hourly) employees to express milk—but employers can do a lot more than that to support their breastfeeding moms. Look at California as an example of what support can look like for all working women.
A new California state law, which went into effect January 1, 2020, requires that all employers (not just larger ones) provide all breastfeeding employees (both exempt and non-exempt) with break time and a private space to pump at work. The law also requires all employers to develop and implement a lactation accommodation policy—complete with a statement of an employee’s right and the process for lactation accommodations requests—for breastfeeding employees.
Employers that are looking for ways to attract and retain their working parents can look to the California law as the gold standard and begin creating their own plans to support their working moms.
Provide a Dignified Lactation Space Stocked with Supplies
The NMHR survey revealed that only 40 percent of moms said they were directed to a “dedicated lactation space or mothers room with a locking door” and less than a third (28 percent) said that the space available was “comfortable and well-furnished."
Employers who provide a dignified lactation space—one that’s only for pumping and near where mom works—are truly demonstrating support for working parents. Additional amenities also go a long way, like providing a hospital-grade breast pump, sanitizing supplies, and access to a refrigerator to store pumped milk. In the survey, 20% of moms said the best benefit their employer provided was a lactation room stocked with supplies!
Milk Shipping Support for Business Travel
For some women, returning to work is a tough transition, but when you return to a traveling position in a company it can be even harder. More than 65 percent of moms who travel shared they feel challenged getting milk back home to their baby when they need to travel for work. Employers can support their traveling moms by offering a milk shipping service that provides a cooler, breast milk storage bags and shipping instructions so the employee can still pump breast milk while traveling on business. Depending on the length of travel, women can pump their breast milk and carry it with them on the plane home or simply ship it home as needed. Organizations that understand the work/life balance challenges that breastfeeding moms face in the workplace can provide much deserved support to help retain their working moms. From making sure moms have flexibility around their pumping schedule and lactation space to providing support for women who need to travel for business, employers across the nation can begin building family-friendly environments for their working moms.
 Galtry J. (1997). Lactation and the labor market: breastfeeding, labor market changes, and public policy in the United States.
 New Moms’ Healthy Returns Survey: Working Moms Want Better Breastfeeding Support from their Employer. (2020, March). Retrieved March 25, 2020, from www.newmomshealthyreturns.com/surveyfindings.