Courtesy of Medela

Program To Support Breastfeeding Moms At Work Aims To Help Employers & Employees — Here's How

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Going back to work shortly after welcoming a baby isn't easy. Beyond being away from your newborn, the transition can be difficult as many moms commit to breastfeeding for the first six months, if not a full year or longer, and many struggle to find places to pump in the office. While companies are required by law to provide private areas for breastfeeding parents to pump and enough time for them to do so, many do not completely comply with those regulations. As such, moms may have to pump in bathrooms or supply closets, and they may be forced to stop breastfeeding before they'd like to. But a new program to support breastfeeding moms at work may be exactly what's needed to help everyone.

Breast pump brand Medela and Mamava, the creators of the lactation pod, have teamed up to launch a new program called New Moms' Healthy Returns (NMHR). The program is intended to be a solution to the lack of options when it comes to making life easier for breastfeeding moms when they return to work after giving birth.

NMHR recognizes the challenges employers face in creating solutions for breastfeeding employees and aims to help them overcome those challenges by providing the following resources:

  • Private lactation spaces
  • 'Round the clock virtual support for breastfeeding parents through Pacify, which connects mothers with pediatric experts and certified lactation consultants
  • Breastfeeding equipment and supplies, such as breast pumps
  • Breast milk shipping when employees must travel

"Coming back after baby is a complicated transition for mom and her employer. With New Moms' Healthy Returns, employers can make families' priorities their priorities, so that parents do not have to choose between going back to work and continuing to feed their babies breast milk when returning to work after baby," Melissa Gonzales, executive vice president of the Americas for Medela LLC, said in a press release.

Employers and companies interested in utilizing this customizable program can request a quote on NMHR's website, where you'll have to fill in details such the company's name, location, and number of employees. And breastfeeding mothers interested in sharing this initiative with their employers can look at NMHR's page "For Parents," which includes a sample letter you can send to your employer to inform them of the program.

"The New Moms' Healthy Returns solution makes it easy for employers to provide the full-circle support new moms need to show up as their best selves at home and at work," Sascha Mayer, CEO and co-founder of Mamava, said in the same press release. "We believe that this program will lead to better outcomes for babies, families, and employers."

This initiative is a major step in the right direction given the amount of discrimination nursing moms face at work. As a recent study by Aeroflow Healthcare found, 31 percent of people don't think employers should be expected to provide their employees with lactation rooms.

What's more, in early 2019, as Fortune reported, despite laws in place to protect breastfeeding parents in the workplace under the Fair Labor Standards Act, many moms still wind up losing their jobs when they attempt to pump at work. A study from the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College found that while federal law requires employers to provide "basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers," like time to express milk and a private place other than a bathroom to do it in, many women reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office that they were denied pump breaks, or not provided such a space. As such, those moms were forced "to pump milk with their breasts exposed."

Moms also reported that they were often on the receiving end of derogatory comments about their breastfeeding, according to the study, and some said they were even fired for inquiring about breastfeeding at work.

Although there are laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers at work, it's clear that there's a lot of work to be done to support them better. Fortunately, companies like Medela and Mamava are stepping in to help fill the void, at least in some workplaces in the U.S. And hopefully this leads to fewer moms falling through the cracks, and more working parents being able to breastfeed and pump for as long as they'd like.