By Tina Cardarelli, IBCLC, director of breastfeeding services, Indiana Perinatal Network

Is your company looking for a no-cost or low-cost, family-friendly employee benefit that will promote employee success both at work and at home? Providing lactation accommodations to nursing mothers is your answer. Not only is it a smart thing to do for the health of your company, employees and their families, but it’s also the law.

The Indiana law (2008) requires private businesses of 50 or more and all state and governmental agencies to provide a private space (not a toilet stall) for employees to pump milk. Learn more.

The Affordable Care Act (2010) requires employers to provide “reasonable break time” and a place (not a bathroom) for an employee to express breastmilk for one year. This fact sheet provides basic information about the law.

Businesses across the country have created supportive work environments for their breastfeeding employees and you can too. The return in cost savings and productivity among employees is well worth the investment. Research shows that it’s not only a highly-desired benefit, but has an average three to one return on investment.

Lactation support programs have been shown to:

  • lower medical costs and health insurance claims for employees and their infants (up to three times less for breastfeeding employees);
  • reduce turnover. Following childbirth, 86% to 92% of employees in Indiana return to workplaces that have a lactation support program in place as compared to the national average of 59%;
  • lower absenteeism (up to half the number of one-day absences for both moms and dads);
  • improve productivity; and
  • raise employee morale and loyalty.

Accommodating your breastfeeding employees is simple. A comprehensive program that includes the following components has been shown to provide the greatest return on investment:

  • Privacy for milk expression can be almost any room with a lock or an on-site, designated lactation room(s) with an electrical outlet where breastfeeding employees can use a pump to express milk during the work period.
  • Flexible breaks and work options: Women need to express milk about every three hours, or two to three times during a typical work day. Your employee will need around 15 minutes, plus time to go to and from the lactation room.
  • Education: Any resources or information that the company can provide helps women to balance the requirements of breastfeeding with their job responsibilities. This information is also beneficial for expectant fathers. Companies that provide lactation information and support for male employees and their partners have lower absenteeism rates among men and lower health insurance claims.
  • Support: An accepting attitude from management, supervisors and co-workers creates a supportive environment where employees feel confident in their ability to combine working with breastfeeding.

Lactation support programs can be tailored to fit the needs of your organization and can be as simple or as elaborate as desired. Most companies report that developing a program is easier than they imagined. For help with your company’s lactation policies and logistics, contact the Indiana Perinatal Network at (317) 924-0825 or ipn@indianaperinatal.org.