Health Benefits for the Family
Breast milk contains antibodies that protect the baby from illnesses including: gastrointestinal disease, respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, type I and type II diabetes and childhood leukemia. In addition to the benefits breast-feeding offers babies, it offers mothers a reduction in risk for type II diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. A healthier baby and mom means both parents can be at work and productive, which seems like a welcome benefit for the employer. Additionally, in 2011 the Health and Human Services Department released a report showing researchers believe that breast-feeding may be particularly beneficial to mothers who have survived childhood cancer. (Source HHS HealthBeat, February 21, 2011.)
Breast-Feeding Report Card
Initial breast-feeding is at its most prevalent level since the introduction of formula with three out of four mothers currently breast-feeding from birth. The medical community overwhelmingly endorses breast-feeding for better health of infants and mothers. Disappointing, however, is that the actual rate of breast-feeding after three, six and nine months remains very low. Tennessee ranks among the lowest in the nation with the percentage of children who are still breast-fed at six months being less than 30 percent. Data shows us that breast-feeding is almost always the healthiest choice for moms and babies, yet we remain one of the lowest on the CDC report card. (Source CDC, 2010). For working mothers the reason may be in part due to workplaces having inadequate support for breast-feeding families. Here is a link to the 2013 breast-feeding report card by state: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013breastfeedingreportcard.pdf.
Mothers who choose to breast-feed face significant challenges when returning to work after the birth of a child. The commitment to feed a child breast milk requires working mothers to express breast milk at regular intervals throughout the day and properly store the milk for the baby’s consumption. This is generally done with an electric pump that can be carried in a simple backpack. Expressing milk at work can be particularly challenging for mothers who travel or have limited opportunities to express milk while at work. Women who don’t have adequate milk expressing options may often consider taking longer leaves, reducing their hours or even quitting their jobs. An employer can maximize the opportunity for a smooth transition back to work by providing an environment that supports breast-feeding mothers.