Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Investing in the Future Workforce

Next week, all across the globe, people are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, which is held every year on the first week of August to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding has many health benefits to mother and baby and has been identified as a priority of the Healthy People 2020 Goals outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1] Exclusive breastfeeding, which means the infant only feeds on breast milk,for the first six months, has been shown to support both mother and baby’s health after a delivery. According to the 2007 report from the US Department of Public Health’s Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, the newborn has a decreased risk for diarrhea, ear infections and even Type 1 and 2 Diabetes when breastfed. Additionally, a lactating mother has decreased risks of postpartum depression, breast and ovarian cancers, and Type 2 Diabetes.[2]


While breastfeeding has these strong health benefits that are supported by evidence, there are many barriers for new mothers to sustain breastfeeding for the recommended six months. While some women are concerned about their milk supply, the number one reported reason that women stop breastfeeding or wean their infants earlier than recommended is to return to work or school after 6 weeks.[3] So, how can employers support mothers who are returning to the workforce who hope to nourish their baby with breastmilk?


As of 2010, the American Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express and store breast milk for her nursing child each time such employee has need to express the milk, for one year after the child’s birth. And a private place to do so that is not the bathroom.[4]

Additionally, employers can support mothers to continue breastfeeding practices and maintain that close bond with their baby by:

  • Providing high-quality breast pumps;
  • Providing on-site or nearby childcare;
  • Offering lactation support from certified lactation counselors;
  • Establishing a peer-mentoring network for mothers in the workplace; and/or
  • Allowing children in the workplace.

There are many ways local organizations can promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. Look to Working on Wellness’ Healthy Workplaces Toolbox for more ideas in supporting your current and future workforce through breastfeeding support policies and practices.


[1] Healthy People 2020

[2] Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries

[3] Working Mothers, Breastfeeding, and the Law

[4] Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition