Despite the protections in place to support breastfeeding for employees, the burden still falls on working mothers to advocate for the resources they need, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.
The study also revealed gaps in the quality and accessibility of breastfeeding resources in the eyes of working mothers.
Study authors specifically wanted to understand the state of breastfeeding support in the workplace since federal guidelines went into place over a decade ago requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and a space other than a restroom for employees to be able to express breast milk.
“We know that returning to work is a significant challenge for breastfeeding continuation,” said Ms. Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student at University of Georgia College of Public Health and lead study author.
“There is a collective experience that we wanted to explore and learn how can we make this better.”
Ms. McCardel surveyed female employees about their access to breastfeeding resources, like private rooms, breast pumps, and lactation consultants, and about their experiences with combining breastfeeding and work.
They found that nearly 80 percent had a private space at work to express milk, and around two-thirds of the women reported having break times to breastfeed. Access to other resources like lactation consultants or breast pumps was less common.
Many respondents also said they hadn’t expected to get much help from their employers, and there was a general lack of communication about the resources available to them.
“We’re now seeing 46 percent of worksites offering health promotion programming, but only 8 percent offer lactation resources,” said Ms. McCardel. “That’s a missed opportunity.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 31