As a member of a state breastfeeding coalition, we have spent a lot of time interacting with families having problems getting employer buy-in for workplace lactation support. Often this is because of the inadvertent downstream impacts of employers providing this support. These impacts may include:
—employers who often short staff their businesses with only one employee, providing no way for the employee to take a break of any kind without closing the business temporarily. Providing enough employee presence so that employees are able to take adequate breaks of any kind needs to be a consideration; since this is a cost to the business it is likely to be a point of contention, and may also be a hidden behavior by the employer.
—employees who need to take a longer break for lactation may also need to leave on a specific schedule to pick up children from child care, even if they have not yet met their hours for the schedule. This may also impact the status of the employee for other benefits, if it drops them below full-time hourly requirements. There need to be ways for employee and employer to be supported in discussing this possibility and how it will be managed.
Merging workplace support of lactation with business impacts is an important step to gaining success across many different employment situations. Where providing lactation support is difficult (field operations, small/single staff, non-traditional work sites, employee family obligations and work hours conflicts to name a few), providing support and guidance for employers to work to address the difficulties is essential.