Business & Finance, Quotable Magazine

Launching Your Workplace Lactation Room

As companies begin to welcome their in-person staff back to the office, many employees have the ability to weigh their options between working in-person or remotely. One of the biggest factors employees cite as part of their decision are company benefits, or lack thereof.

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) found that a 72% retention rate was a top reason business increased benefits offerings. Workplace lactation rooms are one of the benefits new parents look for when considering returning to work. However, in 2021, under 10% of workplaces will have dedicated lactation rooms that provide a clean, safe space for parents to pump and store breast milk during the work day.

One of the hardest decisions parents face after the birth of a child is how to transition back to the workplace. Not only do parents have to arrange childcare and/or transportation, but also the nutritional needs of their children including, for many, a supply of breast milk for baby during the day while they are working. This vital benefit for chest/breastfeeding families is a main factor in a woman’s return to work after maternity leave.

New parents returning to an in-person workplace after a remote home office environment during the pandemic are finding that they must seek out a lactation space. Often this is an empty office, sharing the office of a fellow lactating parent, and more often than not in a shared restroom. It is then up to the employee to properly cool and store their breast milk either in a public refrigerator which risks contamination or a personal cooler which may not keep the milk sufficiently cold throughout the day. Not only does this experience not meet legal requirements, it is stressful for pumping employees.

Creating a safe and clean lactation room for employees is a benefit that goes beyond the workplace. When creating your lactation room, make it safe, secure and designate it for expressing milk only as pumping breast milk is often done on a schedule and cannot be delayed or postponed.

The space should be warm and inviting. An employee should feel relaxed, comfortable and safe while expressing milk. While some parents may have their own pumps, providing a hospital grade electric pump and basic supplies such as bra pads, milk storage bags and a refrigerator allows the employee to pump sufficiently for their child. Providing lactation snacks and tea is a nice touch if you want to elevate the experience.

A sink in the room allows your employee to quickly wash their attachment kit parts, which they need to do after every pumping session. Providing sufficient pumping breaks allows employees to continue to supply their child with needed nourishment while away from home, but also helps employees feel supported while at work. Create a culture where taking lactation breaks is okay, while giving your employees the privacy and tools they need to successfully combine pumping and work.

When planning a lactation room, it is best to review and be in compliance with all local, state and federal laws. Some cities have strict requirements for lactation rooms, and failure to comply can result in fines, lawsuits and possible jail time. A comprehensive lactation accommodation policy should be drafted to educate the workforce on how to stay compliant with all laws. These laws are something all employers should familiarize themselves with.

Businesses of all sizes can add lactation rooms for employees returning to the workplace. It is a benefit that working parents have wanted and needed for decades. Many employers now go above and beyond by having Healthy Horizons provide hospital grade breast pumps, stock and maintain the lactation room at a regular cadence. Lactation rooms can make the decision of IF they will return to the office, to WHEN they will return as they no longer have to worry about their lactation needs.

Sheila Dukas-Janakos, MPH, IBCLC, LE, RLC is CEO and Co-Founder of Healthy Horizons Corporate Lactation Services and Breastfeeding Centers. Healthy Horizons lactation rooms are found in Fortune 500 companies and top workplaces in over 110 cities in North America.

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