Increased awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding means more women are choosing to continue to breastfeed after returning to work. This can present a number of challenges, says Kelly Dorgan, Breastfeeding Health Promoter at Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service.
“Workplace environments significantly influence breastfeeding outcomes, which means more emphasis needs to be placed on organisations and industries to support and promote breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.”
Along with supportive workplace environments, employer’s knowledge and understanding of breastfeeding, flexible working conditions and paid expressing/breastfeeding breaks have been identified as ways to encourage women to be able to meet their breastfeeding goals.
However, many women feel apprehensive to discuss expressing/feeding times with their employers prior to returning to paid employment, and this is often compounded with feelings of guilt about returning to work. Kelly’s role involves engaging with Canterbury-based workplaces and organisations to ensure they have the right facilities and processes to support breastfeeding staff. “It’s largely about removing barriers that exist within the community to support, protect and promote breastfeeding,” she says.
To meet the requirements for Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace certification, an appropriate space for women to either pump or breastfeed is required, with a hand basin close by and a fridge to store expressed milk. A policy is also required, stating there will be an opportunity for breastfeeding staff to speak with a manager or team leader prior to returning from their maternity leave to discuss how their baby’s feeding needs will be managed. “There should also be staff education offered around the policy to ensure colleagues are understanding of any breaks taken.”
The certification process was implemented to not only support breastfeeding staff, but help employers understand the legalities and benefits of supporting staff in their breastfeeding journeys. “Certification simply involves us making contact with the appropriate personnel and sending out the relevant information. If they’re happy to proceed, we always offer to visit the facility and check out the spaces, advising on any changes that would need to be made in order for our criteria to be met.”
Once a breastfeeding policy is created and everything is in place, a certificate is given to the organisation during a presentation, which often includes providing a simple education session for staff on the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of breastfeeding support. Kelly says the Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service is always grateful for recommendations and is happy to follow up any reports of women not feeling supported on their journey.
“Sometimes we’ll get suggestions of businesses to contact through local breastfeeding networks and other times we’ll randomly choose businesses that we feel will have a significant impact for large numbers of employees.”
For more information or to become workplace certified, visit www.canbreastfeed.co.nz/workplace or email firstname.lastname@example.org