Creating Equitable Environments for Working Parents: HOW TO Create a Lactation Space
As we enjoy a long-awaited summer and the pandemic recedes in the wake of the vaccine deployment, employers are planning for their employees’ return to communal workspaces, and new parents are among them. This is an opportunity for employers to look at ways they can make their culture more inclusive to these new parents—which should include consideration for women that have chosen to continue providing breast milk to their child and who will need to pump at work. For women who have made this decision, it is not an option to only breastfeed at home. They must pump their breast milk when they are away from home in order to maintain their milk supply and avoid mastitis or other health issues or infections.
Following the impacts of the pandemic on working parents and women, many Diversity, Equity & Inclusion professionals are implementing initiatives that expand gender equity benefits including making cultures more family-friendly. For new parents returning to work, they expect to work in an environment that allows them to continue their career and manage new parental responsibilities. Many employers took notice of the max exodus of women from the workforce during the 2020 pandemic and are working hard to ensure they can attract, engage and retain working parents with solutions that focus on their unique needs.
The investments in DE&I initiatives are in-line with what today’s generation of employees want: an organizational culture that offers more help balancing work, home, health and more. Millennial moms account for more than 80% of births in the U.S.1 and they care about benefits that support their lifestyle choices—including when making the choice to start a family. In fact, among millennials, 60% said that being a parent is extremely important to their overall identity(2).
Creating a Comfortable Lactation Space is Critical
One area that employers-of-choice are focusing on is ensuring their working, breastfeeding parents have comfortable lactation spaces available for pumping that comply with federal and local laws. Whether employers already have a lactation space, or are creating one for the first time, it’s important that they create spaces that are safe, clean and dignified for their employees. Unfortunately, most new moms still feel they’re not getting the right support, products or educational resources from their employers when they return to work(3). Employers can change this—beginning with their lactation space.
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work. These accommodations include reasonable break time and a private, secure space that is not a bathroom for non-exempt (hourly) employees each time they need to pump. This law provides bare minimum protections, and new parents today expect more from their employers.
With that in mind, employers need to prepare more than just adequate lactation spaces. More than “just adequate” doesn’t mean you need a massive budget; it can be some of the smaller touches that can make a huge difference. In a recent survey, 20% of new moms said that the best employer benefit would be a lactation space stocked with some supplies!(3)
To help organizations create a space that supports working parents, we’ve created a helpful Lactation Space Guide with everything you need to know in order to create a comfortable and efficient space for your employees. From knowing what’s required by law to actually creating the space, our guide gives you a detailed outline of what an ideal room would offer. Providing a relaxing and calm space for working women is one clear way to show them you are focusing on creating equitable spaces for their unique needs as new mothers. Our friends and partner at Mamava also published a helpful article 4 Tips for Lactation Room Design. We hope you find these resources helpful.
Pew Research Center, May 2018, More than a million Millennials are becoming moms each year | Pew Research Center
Pew Research Survey, 2015, Parenting in America | Pew Research Center
New Moms’ Healthy Returns Survey: Working Moms Want Better Breastfeeding Support from their Employer, March 2020