Mothers and Children Benefit From Breastfeeding
For most women, breastfeeding is biologically possible. Both babies and mothers gain many benefits from breastfeeding. Breast milk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. Also, research indicates that women who breastfeed may have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers.
A common reason cited for not planning to breastfeed is that the mother will be returning to work. Women are a significant part of the work force. One out of three women will return to work within 3 months of giving birth and two out of three women will return to work within 6 months of giving birth. Many mothers will return within 6 weeks or even sooner.
Until recently, when breastfeeding mothers returned to work, they faced the challenge of maintaining an adequate milk supply. But many employers have discovered that accommodating employees who breastfeed is good business. The Office on Women’s Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services notes that the health benefits to mother and baby conveyed by breastfeeding translate into reduced costs to employers due to lower health care costs, de-creased absenteeism, enhanced productivity, improved employee satisfaction, and a better corporate image.
It is feasible for women to breastfeed in many work environments. Accommodating breastfeeding is not complicated, but as with other work-site issues, clarifying mutual expectations and understanding local policy will minimize concerns. The key needs are basic: time, a location in which to pump or express the breast milk, and employer-employee communication. When child care is on-site or nearby and schedules are supportive, breastfeeding can continue seamlessly.
Both babies and mothers gain many benefits from breastfeeding. As we are seeing across our country, more employers are providing support for nursing mothers. I appreciate the American Dietetic Association’s position that food and nutrition professionals have an essential role in promoting and supporting breastfeeding. I urge American Dietetic Association members to reaffirm this role as they join in creating and supporting pathways for working mothers to continue breastfeeding