When new mothers head back to work, it’s a big transition for everyone – especially so if mom is breastfeeding. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act put into place requirements that employers allow for reasonable break time and a private space (not a bathroom) to express milk.
Largely gone are the days when new moms were forced to choose between returning to work and breastfeeding – this is largely thanks to supportive employers, including the NH Division of Public Health. But because those days aren’t completely gone, and because federal laws like the Affordable Care Act can change, the recently signed Executive Branch contract now includes language in support of breastfeeding moms. Bargaining team member Kristen Marabella spearheaded the effort to get that language (article 19.16.1) included in the new contract.
“The new language backs up federal law and will help nursing mothers feel supported and not targeted for providing for their infant,” said Marabella, who is also the Secretary of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.
At the Division of Public Health at 29 Hazen Drive in Concord, all employees and visitors have access to two separate lactation lounges in the building. Both areas include private space, an electric multi-user breast pump, printed educational materials and are in close proximity to running water. The lactation lounge is used daily by four to six woman, multiple times a day, to express breast milk while at work.
One of those women, Sarah McPhee, is a mother of two – ages four and one – and said the experience of breastfeeding was profoundly important to her and her daughters.
“It was easily one of the most important experiences of my life to date – the connection, the nutrition, the love were all so important to their development, and to mine as a mother,” McPhee said.
The lactation rooms at 29 Hazen Drive played an important role in her breastfeeding success, McPhee added.
“Not only did it provide a comfortable, convenient space to pump, but it also afforded me the opportunity to sit quietly and think about my babies during the day,” she said. “For me, pumping and breastfeeding was a critical component to achieving work/life balance. I’m very thankful to have had this resource available to me.”
Lactation support at work provides a significant return on investment through lower health care costs, lower employee absenteeism rates, lower turnover rates, and higher employee productivity and loyalty. This small investment allows a mom to give her best at work and to her baby.