Women still face barriers to breastfeed at work

January 21, 2020

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.

"We know that there are benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant, and we know that returning to work is a significant challenge for breastfeeding continuation," said Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student at UGA's 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."

McCardel and her co-author specifically wanted to better understand 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.

For their study, McCardel's team surveyed female employees who performed a variety of jobs.

In addition to asking questions about their access to breastfeeding resources like private rooms, breast pumps and lactation consultants, the respondents were also asked about their experiences with combining breastfeeding and work.

They found that most respondents, nearly 80%, 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.

That's a small fix that employers could implement today, said Heather Padilla, an assistant professor at the College of Public Health and study co-author.

"Designate a person who is responsible for making sure that women who are preparing for the birth of their baby understand what resources they have available to them when they return to work," she said. This could be a supervisor, an HR director or a mentor, she added.

Care and support for employees should extend to breastfeeding support, said McCardel.

"According to the most recent Workplace Health in America Survey, we're now seeing about 46% of worksites are offering some sort of health promotion programming, but only 8% offer lactation resources," she said. "I feel like that's a missed opportunity because it's a crucial part of work-life balance, especially for new mothers."

Padilla said, "Employers who want to keep valued employees should think about how to create a workplace that considers the challenges that working mothers face."

"Many women who have young children are in the workforce, and we should be able to make it easier for them to combine those two things," said Padilla. "It shouldn't be a choice of one or the other."
-end-


University of Georgia

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.