Worksite Support for Breastfeeding
The Business Case for Breastfeeding
Supporting breastfeeding employees through a babies-at-work program or worksite lactation support has a significant payoff for businesses. Savings are seen in the areas of greater retention of experienced employees; reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children's illnesses; and lower health care and insurance costs.
- Breastfeeding employees miss work less often. Breastfed infants are healthier. Human milk
boosts an infant's immune system and helps protect him from common childhood illnesses,
infections, and dermatitis. One-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as
often for mothers of formula feeding infants.
- Breastfeeding lowers health care costs. The reduced health care costs for breastfed infants
translate into lower medical insurance claims for businesses. Babies who are not breastfed visit
the physician more often, spend more days in the hospital, and require more prescriptions than
breastfed infants. The insurance company CIGNA conducted a 2-year study of 343 employees who
participated in their lactation support program, and found that the program resulted in an
annual savings $240,000 in health care expenses, 62 percent fewer prescriptions, and $60,000
savings in reduced absenteeism rates.
- Investing in a worksite lactation support program can yield substantial dividends to the
company. Just a few of these important dividends include lower turnover rates, additional health
care savings, higher productivity and loyalty, and positive public relations. Although 80
percent of its employees are male, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power found that a
lactation support program for mothers, fathers, and partners of male employees made a dramatic
difference in reducing turnover and absenteeism rates for both male and female workers. They
also found that 83 percent of employees were more positive about the company as a result of the
program, and 67 percent intended to make it their long-term employer.
What is a lactation support program?
- Privacy to Express Milk - If women do not work in a private office, a small private space with
an electrical outlet (as small as 4' by 5') can be set up for a lactation room. A breastfeeding
mom needs to express milk approximately every 3 hours to maintain a healthy milk supply and remain
comfortable while separated from her infant. Employees should never be asked to express milk or
breastfeed in a restroom. Breastmilk is food and restrooms are an unsanitary place to prepare
- Flexible Breaks - Each milk expression session usually takes about 15 minutes plus time to get
to and from the lactation room. Breastfeeding employees typically need no more than an hour per
work day to express milk, which can easily be divided between usual paid breaks and meal period.
If milk expression takes longer, a common solution is to allow employees the flexibility to come in
early or stay late, or to use a portion of their lunch period to make up time. Providing support
is a temporary need for each breastfeeding employee. Once babies begin eating solid foods at 6
months, milk expression requirements gradually diminish.
- Education - employees value information they receive during their pregnancy about continuing to
breastfeed upon returning to work. Policies, pamphlets, and resources can help employees feel
- Support - Supportive policies and practices that enable women to successfully return to work and
breastfeed send a message to all employees that breastfeeding is valued. Management can
encourage all employees to exhibit a positive, accepting attitude.
The information above is from The Business Case for Breastfeeding published in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau.