Employers benefit by supporting breastfeeding moms

There is hardly anything as basic and primal as a mother nourishing her babies with breast milk, in both human and animal families.

I’ve written extensively about my own experiences breastfeeding my three children.

Although my kids are now almost all into their teen years, I still feel passionate about the subject and my memories of both the trials and joys of this practice are still fresh.

In this world of technology, medical intervention, mass production, shaming of women’s bodies and mass marketing, this very natural act is a stark contradiction to our fast-paced world that puts a premium on quick and easy. There is nothing quick and easy about breastfeeding, but it is convenient and effective.

It is built in, costs nothing and promotes health in both the short and long run for mama and baby.

I struggled to continue breastfeeding when I went back to work with all three of my kids, although I knew it was the best thing for them. I was even working in a health clinic at the time, yet I was discouraged from breastfeeding and told it would embarrass other staff.

Some of the male healthcare providers even made jokes about me trying to breastfeed and told me I should just be a stay at home mom like their wives, which was not an option for me at that point.

There are reams of scientific evidence that breastfeeding promotes the health and development of the baby, including brain development, immune system, improves bonding, and even speech development, reduces the chances of future obesity and chronic disease. But why should employers want their female employees to breastfeed? After all, it could pull them away from their work several times a day which could reduce productivity.

Actually, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that women who breastfeed, at least the first few months after their return to work, have lower rates of absenteeism, suffer less from post-partum depression and have higher productivity. Supportive workplace breastfeeding policies are the cost effective way to support a woman returning to work after maternity leave.

In fact the state of Texas recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding and passed new policies for employers in 2015 that require support of working breastfeeding moms. Texas HB 786 requires that public employers accommodate lactation by providing a space “shielded from view” and “free from intrusion” for mothers to pump. I spoke with Ivette Torres, president of the Rio Grande Valley Breastfeeding Coalition, who explained the importance of this legislation, and other local progress to promote breastfeeding.

“Our coalition is diverse and proactive and we are working across sectors on to promote breastfeeding here in the Valley. In addition to Texas HB786 there is now the RGV Lactation Care Center (McAllen, TX) established by TX-DSHS (1 of 4 in Texas) and the Texas Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative (WIC, TX-DSHS, NICHQ), which engages hospitals to promote and support postpartum breastfeeding by having bedside support services. Five Rio Grande Valley hospitals are participating right now.”

Employers can learn more about a new state law that came into effect at a free, upcoming conference sponsored by many partners, including the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, UTRGV ADVANCE Program and the Rio Grande Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. The conference, “State and Federal Laws and Resources for Worksite Lactation Support: What Employers Need to Know”, provides two opportunities to participate in two Valley locations:

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 UT RGV- Harlingen, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or Thursday, November 10th, 2016 at UT RGV –Edinburg, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

According to Torres, “Breastfeeding really exemplifies prevention. It’s not just a feeling. It’s backed up by clinical data. There is science behind it. It empowers immunity and all the building blocks to being a healthy adult throughout your life! The state of Texas is behind breastfeeding as a method of prevention because it’s a smart investment.”

It is a dangerous thing to undervalue a crucial act of nature like breastfeeding. In fact human’s attempt to circumvent nourishing babies the way our bodies are designed, has had huge negative impact on millions of lives around the world; their development, population health, and even survival in places that lack clean water access and have high rates of diarrhea in babies who are fed formula.

Here in our community, stigma, marketing by formula companies even before babies are born, and a lack of support from healthcare providers and employers have resulted in low rates of breastfeeding in our region. It is particularly crucial that employers support breastfeeding for the good of their employees, but also for their bottom line, because Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!).

For more information or to register for the free conference go to: