During World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 through 7, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is calling on businesses to learn how they can help support an employee’s decision to breastfeed.
In 2019, over 80% of North Dakota babies began their lives being breastfed. Breastfeeding has health benefits for both baby and mom, and can protect against many illnesses and infections, meaning fewer absences from work. Unfortunately, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows breastfeeding rates significantly decrease when mothers return to work, with only about half still breastfeeding after three months.
Returning to work and continuing to breastfeed can be challenging for many mothers, causing them to discontinue breastfeeding. A Kids Count Data report from 2019 indicated mothers of young children represent 76% of North Dakota’s workforce, which puts businesses in a unique position to help promote and support breastfeeding.
"Making accommodations for your employees to feel comfortable during this short time in their lives builds trust and loyalty between the employee and company,” says Janna Curry, human resources manager for West Acres Development in Fargo.
To ensure a supportive environment for new mothers in her workplace, Curry helped her company become designated as an Infant Friendly Workplace through the NDDoH. This designation is awarded to businesses that adopt breastfeeding support policies allowing new mothers to privately and comfortably pump breastmilk during the workday.
“It’s an important way for companies to show they care about their employees’ personal lives, especially something as life-changing and exciting as a new baby,” says Curry.
The first step toward becoming an Infant Friendly Workplace is to establish your workplace breastfeeding policy. The policy should include guidelines for adequate break time; a clean, private location for milk expression; and resources for clean water and breast milk storage.