By Kayla McKiski
TUESDAY, February 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) – There may be protections for breastfeeding employees, but the responsibility lies with working mothers to find the resources they need, according to a survey by the University of Georgia.
"We know that breastfeeding has benefits for both the mother and the baby, and we know that returning to work is a major challenge for continued breastfeeding," said lead author Rachel McCardel, a PhD student at the School of Health Public of the UGA.
"There is a collective experience that we wanted to explore and learn how we can improve this," McCardel said in a university press release.
Federal regulations promulgated more than 10 years ago require employers to provide unpaid rest time and non-restroom space for employees to breastfeed or pump milk.
McCardel and co-author Heather Padilla interviewed 52 employees from various positions. They asked women about their experiences combining breastfeeding and work, as well as their access to private rooms, breast pumps and lactation consultants.
Nearly 79% of respondents said they had a private space at work to pump milk. About two thirds had rest time to breastfeed. But breastfeeding consultants and breast pumps were less common.
A small effort by employers could correct that, said Padilla, an assistant professor of health and behavior promotion at the university.
"Designate a person responsible for making sure that women who are preparing for the birth of their baby understand what resources are available to them when they return to work," he suggested. This could be a supervisor, director of human resources for a mentor.
Employers should make it easier for women to work and raise young children. "It shouldn't be a choice of one or the other," Padilla said.
"According to the most recent Workplace Health in America survey, we now see that about 46% of workplaces offer some kind of health promotion program, but only 8% offer breastfeeding resources," he said, and said that "it is a crucial part of balance between work and life, especially for new mothers."
The study was published recently in the journal. Health and safety in the workplace.