The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Health and Family Benefits

Reference Number: MTAS-851
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 09, 2017
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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.[1] 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.)

Workplace Challenges

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.

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