Information for employers
Breastfeeding is important for the health of both babies and mothers, and the longer a mother breastfeeds for the greater the health protection for both.
Babies who are not breastfed are at higher risk of developing:
- ear, nose and throat infections
- gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrohea)
- kidney and chest infections
- asthma and eczema
- obesity and diabetes as they get older
Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes. It is also convenient and cost-free. A breastfeeding mother is less likely to need time off work to care for a sick child.
Breastmilk gives a baby all the nutrients they need for around the first six months of life, and continues to be an important part of their diet, as other foods are given, for up to two years of age and beyond.
Benefits of a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace
The health protection offered by breastfeeding for longer can led to:
- Reduced absenteeism, as parents will be less likely to need time off to care for ill children.
- Less absenteeism leads to increased productivity.
- Lower staff turnover as mothers are more likely to return to work following maternity leave.
- Cost savings from reduced absenteeism and lower staff turnover.
Family friendly work practices that support breastfeeding can help build a positive corporate image and support companies to retain experienced staff.
Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace
As an employer there are three simple steps you can take to help create a breastfeeding friendly workplace.
Step 1: Develop a workplace breastfeeding policy
A workplace breastfeeding policy sets out how breastfeeding will be supported in your workplace. A sample policy can be downloaded from www.breastfeeding.ie, which can be adapted to suit the needs of your workplace. The policy should be communicated to all staff and management once it is agreed.
Flexible work options such as flexible hours, part-time, job-sharing or working from home are generic family-friendly work practices that also support breastfeeding.
Step 2: Consider what facilities you have
A clean, warm, well-ventilated, lockable room will be required to enable employees to breastfeed or express in the workplace. It can be a room used for other purposes, such as a first-aid room, as long as it gives employees enough space, comfort and privacy to breastfeed or express their milk. It should not be a toilet area.
If you have an on-site or company childminding facility a similar space will be required there.
Access to a fridge to store expressed breastmilk would be helpful.
Step 3: Begin the conversation
When an employee applies for maternity leave, begin the conversation about what support will be available when they return to work. Give them a copy of the breastfeeding policy
Have a simple procedure in place for employees to access breastfeeding supports. It may form part of the process for notifying you of their date for returning to work after maternity leave.
For employees returning to work before 26 weeks maternity a standard form for requesting Breastfeeding Breaks may be helpful. A sample form can be downloaded from www.breastfeeding.ie.
For employees returning to work after 26 weeks maternity leave, provide information on flexible work options such as flexible hours, part-time, job-sharing,working from home or parental leave.