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The challenges faced by nursing mothers at work, especially those in hourly, lower-wage positions, are very real. We know that 77 percent of mothers in retail or lower-wage jobs give up breastfeeding after returning to work. This is because continuing to breastfeed at work is so difficult-- especially for those who don't have access to a clean or private place to pump milk, scheduling flexibility to do so, or a supportive manager.

Health care reform was intended to address this problem last year-- for the first time, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to require employers to provide nonexempt nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a sanitary, private space, that is not a bathroom, to pump milk at work. While this new federal law spotlighted an important health issue and helped remove the workplace as a barrier to breastfeeding, there is still much to be done to educate businesses about lactation programs and workplace support for nursing mothers.

Indeed, although we now have a federal workplace lactation provision on the books, only 28 percent of businesses have lactation rooms. And, according to a recent survey commissioned by Workplace Options, 57 percent of people are not aware of the new federal workplace lactation law.

To help address this awareness and implementation gap, Corporate Voices for Working Families has produced a free, high-quality and up-to-date online workplace lactation toolkit for employers to help them comply with the new law and support their nursing mothers. Components of the toolkit include:

  • Checklists to set up a lactation room
  • Employer talking points to help facilitate a conversation about breastfeeding
  • Educational breastfeeding resource fliers supervisors can give to employees
  • Success stories and more!

Given that mothers with infants are one of the largest and fastest-growing segments in the workforce, particularly in lower-wage industries, helping to support nursing mothers at work is a priority for the economic security and health of mothers, infants and working families in America.

We also know that there is a business case for breastfeeding. Best practice employers have long known that work-life supports like lactation programs improve bottom-line results. Through improved recruitment, retention, productivity and lower health care costs, supporting nursing mothers at work makes good business sense.

Stephen M. Wing, president of Corporate Voices, said,

“Employers that recognize the business benefits of breastfeeding play a critical role in promoting economic self-sufficiency among lower-wage working families—especially vital during these tough economic times. But along with recognizing the benefits of breastfeeding, employers need resources and tools to implement successful lactation programs, which is why we have re-released our lactation toolkit.”

By making these tools and resources available, and by highlighting what works across industries, Corporate Voices aims to close the gap in lactation support, help working families and help businesses become more competitive in the 21st century.

We encourage employers to make use of this free toolkit, and we also invite employees and health professionals to share this resource with businesses in their communities to help jumpstart a positive conversation about how to support nursing mothers at work.

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