Breastfeeding for Business
Breastfeeding for Business
Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii provides programs and education for businesses on the value of supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace and offers tips to help businesses implement lactation accommodations. Information is also available to employees on breastfeeding rights and the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is natural, inexpensive, requires no special equipment, and provides a healthy start for newborns and a special bonding time for mothers and babies. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding benefits a baby’s developing immune system and can provide some protection from common childhood illnesses. It also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone which helps the uterus contract and may reduce postpartum bleeding. Breastfeeding also may reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and may make losing the weight gained during pregnancy easier.
Breastfeeding: Good for Mothers, Babies, and Business
Breastfeeding isn’t just healthy for mothers and babies, it’s good for business, too! From a financial perspective, breastfeeding is staggeringly cost effective. Individual households can save nearly $1,000 in healthcare costs during their baby’s first year if the mother nurses. Nationwide, up to $4 billion a year could be saved in healthcare costs, and $93 million a month in lower food packaging costs if all women nursed their babies.
Businesses that support their breastfeeding employees can actually save money on healthcare costs, absenteeism and employee turnover. Women who continue to breastfeed after returning to work:
- Tend to return to work earlier from maternity leave.
- Miss fewer days because of baby-related illness.
- Have shorter absences when they do miss work.
- Have higher morale.
Supporting Breastfeeding Customers
The federal government and many states –including Hawaii– have laws which protect nursing women. Businesses that provide breastfeeding support for their patrons enjoy customer loyalty. Employees, customers, and the community at large view businesses that support breastfeeding as family friendly.
HMHB Coalition of Hawaii encourages employers, employees, and customers to nominate family-friendly businesses to receive recognition for efforts to provide breastfeeding support for nursing mothers.
Supporting Breastfeeding Employees
As of July 1, 2013, all Hawaii employers are required to provide:
- A reasonable break time for an employee to express milk for the employee’s nursing child for one year after the child’s birth, each time the employee has a need to express breast milk.
- A location, other than the restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public that may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Employers who fail to comply shall be fined $500 per violation and may be liable for damages suffered by the employee. Hawaii State Law also requires employers to post this notice in a conspicuous place accessible to employees. Federal law also requires certain employers to provide lactation accommodations to certain employees. For more on the State law, see the Hawaii Employment Practices Law (Act 249, 2013 Regular Session).
Getting Started with Lactation Accommodations
If your company doesn’t provide a private lactation room, identify another private area for nursing mothers to use. For example, companies have used an office with a door, a conference room, or a little-used closet or storage area. The room should be private and secure when in use. The room should also have an electrical outlet for mothers using an electric breast pump.
A restroom is not an acceptable lactation accommodation and does not meet ACA requirements. Restrooms are unsanitary and usually lack electrical outlets for breast pumps. It can also be difficult to manage a pump in a toilet stall.
A lesser-known provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers that are covered
by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provide time and a private space for mothers to nurse or express breast milk during the workday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office on Women’s Health, provides information to help employers comply with the ACA.
Launching a Comprehensive Lactation Support Program
Reasonable break time and private lactation accommodations are just the beginning! Many companies develop comprehensive lactation support programs and provide additional support to their breastfeeding employees, including:
- Paid family leave, which provides paid time off work for individuals who must care for an ill family member or to bond with a new child
- Flexible return-to-work options
- Onsite childcare
- Access to professional lactation support
Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii can also assist businesses in providing support for workplace breastfeeding. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment to assess your lactation accommodations or provide employee training, please contact us at 808-737-5805 or [email protected].
Mothers: Know Your Rights
Breastfeeding mothers have a number of rights in the State of Hawaii. First, you have the right to breastfeed your baby in public. To download and print a wallet card outlining this right, click here. Second, your employer is required to provide:
- A reasonable break time for you to express milk for your nursing child for one year after your child’s birth, each time you have a need to express breast milk.
- A location, other than the restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public that you may use to express breast milk.
Employers who fail to comply shall be fined $500 per violation and may be liable for damages. For more on the law, see the Hawaii Employment Practices Law (Act 249, 2013 Regular Session).
If you believe your employer has violated this law, you may file a lawsuit in state court within two years after the occurrence of the alleged violation. Damages may include reasonable attorney’s fees.
For further assistance, contact the Hawaii State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 808-541-1361.
Sources: 1) Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby’s Immune System, The American Academy of Pediatrics. Available at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Babys-Immune-System.aspx. 2) FAQ- Breastfeeding Your Baby, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Breastfeeding-Your-Baby 3) The Business Case for Breastfeeding, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health. Available at:
http://mchb.hrsa.gov/pregnancyandbeyond/breastfeeding/. 4) Supporting Nursing Moms at
Work: Employer Solutions, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s
Health. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/employer-