Why Businesses Should be Friendly About Breastfeeding

mom_BabyIt’s now well established that breastfeeding is beneficial for both babies and mothers. Just as a refresher, breastfed babies have a lower risk of:

  • ear infections
  • respiratory infections
  • dermatitis
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • asthma
  • obesity
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • childhood cancers
  • diabetes


For moms, the breastfeeding ROI includes a reduced risk of:

  •  postpartum depression
  • osteoporosis
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • breast and ovarian cancer
  • obesity


Health Net has long recognized the benefits of breastfeeding, and thus provides member moms-to-be with breastfeeding and other support services, including access to board-certified lactation consultants and – if needed – breast pumps. Health Net also was among the first health plans to provide text4baby, which delivers timely health information during pregnancy – and throughout the baby’s first year – via personalized text messages.


August is National Breastfeeding Month – an ideal time for business owners to not only familiarize themselves with their legal obligations in relation to accommodating breastfeeding in the workplace, but also to become educated regarding why a breastfeeding-friendly workplace is a business win.


The Legal Requirements

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 30, 2010, it became mandatory for employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child, and to do so for one year after the baby’s birth; this mandate applies to each time said employee needs to express milk.


Additionally, employers must provide a place – other than a bathroom – for the employee to express breast milk. For businesses that employ fewer than 50 people, these requirements may be waived, if the business can demonstrate that the mandate would result in undue hardship.


The Business Case

Beyond meeting legal mandates, a strong case can be made that it’s in a business’s best interest to create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. Consider these upsides:


  • Reduced health-care costs – As outlined at the outset, both breastfed babies and their mothers experience a reduced risk of numerous illnesses and medical conditions. Consequently, this equates to fewer hospitalizations as well as visits to the doctor, which together add up to lower health-care costs for businesses. In fact, according to a study conducted by Mutual of Omaha, health-care costs for newborns were three-times lower for babies whose mothers participated in a company-sponsored lactation program; this represented a yearly savings of $115,881 in health-care claims for nursing mothers and their babies.


  • Decreased absenteeism – As noted above, breastfed babies are healthier. As a result, parents of breastfed children will not have to care for sick offspring as frequently. For example, one study concluded that – of 40 illnesses causing a one-day absence from work – only 25% were attributed to mothers of breastfed infants, while fully 75% occurred in formula-fed infants.


  • Increased employee retention – Companies that provide lactation-support programs report a post-maternity-retention rate of more than 94%, compared to the national-retention rate of 59%. Businesses that must replace non-returning employees can expect a hit to their bottom line that generally equates to more than 21% of the salary associated with the job’s that’s being replaced.


  • Heightened morale and loyalty – Research has shown that women who work at a breastfeeding-friendly place of employment are both more productive and loyal to the company. For instance, women who participated in Home Depot’s lactation program reported high job satisfaction on monthly program surveys.


  • Improved company image – Providing a supportive environment for nursing employees pays public-relations dividends in the form of an enhanced company image – an image that connotes compassion and genuine concern for the well-being of employees. For example, fully 94% of Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies for Working Women” offered a breastfeeding-support program.












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Susan Peters