Breastfeeding: How to Support Mothers Returning to Work
Recommended by health professionals and midwives, breastfeeding usually continues for around 6 months after the baby is born. Returning to work after maternity leave poses many concerns, surrounding the baby and the mother. Employers, by law, have to accommodate breastfeeding mothers and have various legal obligations to comply with. We look at how employers can support breastfeeding mothers returning to work, whilst breastfeeding.
If a woman has worked with your business for at least 26 weeks she can claim flexible working when returning to work after having a baby. That means, you as an employer are required to seriously consider what you can offer a new mother at your workplace. Women who are supported by their employer are more likely to return to work and will have higher morale, productivity and overall well being.
Ensure You Have The Right Facilities
Breastfeeding mothers need to express milk regularly for both the baby and to prevent health concerns and infections, such as mastitis. For women who have returned to work whilst still breastfeeding, they’ll require a clean, warm and private room to express milk that is not a bathroom where they won’t be disturbed or disrupted and where they are able to rest.
Ensure You Offer Adequate Breaks
Providing sufficient breaks for new mothers to express milk has proven positive effects on both the employee and the employer. Offering reasonable care and support improves morale, productivity and trust in the employer for the returning mother.
Appreciate The Lack of Sleep
For the average person, less than six hours of sleep a night is considered acute sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation and broken slumber pose a magnitude of issues for us all; including physiological, cognitive and emotional.
Breastfeeding mothers wake to the sound of a crying baby for a feed multiple times a night, and over time this will have a profound effect on the mother’s ability to focus and concentrate at work. As an employer, you can accommodate this by allowing flexible working hours that suit the mother, baby and you. Perhaps you could incorporate a condition surrounding flexible working hours on a temporary contract while as long as she is still breastfeeding after returning to work.
Workplace regulations require employers to provide sufficient facilities and storage for mothers to store expressed milk at work. If you have a large business with a significant number of employees using communal kitchen and storage spaces, you could allocate a small fridge dedicated to employees post-maternity.
Support for Returning Mothers
Returning to work after having a baby can bring a range of emotions, some may feel excited to be going back to doing something they know and love, whilst others may feel anxious and nervous to leave their baby. Managers and senior leaders should be adequately trained in supporting someone returning from maternity leave.
During maternity leave maintain communication with the employee so they still feel included during their absence and once they are ready to return. Think about how flexible you can be with working hours too. Can you offer remote working or part-time hours upon their return on a temporary basis?
Mental Health Awareness
Birthing a child can be an overwhelming time, physcologically and emotionally, which can lead to prolonged mental health issues, even for those who have no history of mental ill-health. Postpartum depression and anxiety is common and real and should be treated fairly and equally by the employer. The responsibility of a baby can be overwhelming for new mothers as much as it is adding to your brood, therefore transitioning back to work can create additional anxiety and mood changes.
Be mindful of what measures the individual may take to cope with postpartum emotions and feelings. They may need to take up therapy which will require time away from work, or perhaps physical activity helps to release happy hormones and manage their stress levels. Work with local organisations, centres and businesses to implement offers on classes and memberships or access to mental health support.To find out how we can impact your business to support breastfeeding mothers returning to work then please get in touch – we offer 6 months free with absolutely no obligation thereafter.