Thursday, March 29, 2012

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The Business Case for BREASTFEEDING: Steps for Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite: Update

I've been working on the National Worksite Breastfeeding Support for Employers of Overtime Eligible Employees: Innovative Strategies for Success project over the past several weeks now -- to gain information on how businesses around the country are accommodating working women who also choose to breastfeed -- or in my case, how they are doing so across Washington State -- and it's been just a tad more challenging than I would have imagined. I'm not complaining about the work. Not at all. But for some reason I figured many places would be more than willing to allow me to visit -- you know, welcome me with open arms. But that's not necessarily been the case. Many places echo the same sentiments of an aging workforce with many employees beyond their childbearing years, and many have state there's never been the need for any type of space for a woman to express breast milk. I've also been surprised that some really big entities refuse -- simply because I'm there to highlight the positive aspects of the way they accommodate women -- and tell the entire country about it, through a fairly easy process which only requires a visit to the location, interviewing someone knowledgeable of the lactation services -- usually a Human Resources Department Representative, and also an employee who has used the station, take a few pictures then I'm on my way. After that, I'll upload the information onto the national database, and that's it!

Something else I've notices is the women who say 'Yes' (and it's always a woman) are passionate about breastfeeding! They have a vested interest in the initiative, know what breastfeeding has to offer, have used the lactation rooms themselves, or have gone through their own struggles with being able to -- or not being able to pump at work. They also have usually played a hand in organizing and setting up the space -- painting and decorating, and encouraging others by spreading the word. When I come into contact with a male figures and tell them who I am and what I'm doing, I can almost see the question marks lingering over their heads and hear the "And how do I have anything to do with this?" inflection in their voices.

Overall, though, I am really enjoying the experience, and am excitedly learning the ways of each company's services. I am finding many places usually already have some kind of designated space available for an employee to use -- one who feels ill, needs to administer an insulin injection or something of that sort. And though I'm not getting approvals from the places I really want to visit -- those farm and field workers, mines, and other sites where access for these women would seem very challenging -- those marginalized areas, I have walked away in awe of the accommodations of some -- like providing hospital-grade breast pumps in each lactation room for employees that everyone, regardless of rank, has access to. Or infant cribs installed so a child can nap, or a nursling being brought to the mother's work on her lunch break. I still must recognize even though the places I visit (which are all required to have at least 30% hourly-paid workers), are looking awesome so far, there is even privilege in those places. I know many other companies do not have these types of accommodations, or a designated space, and I think about the credentials required of the employee and the role formal education play, and how in spite of a federal law, this affects access and treatment in much of these circumstances. And who can afford and not afford their own breast pump.

The information I have gathered will be up on the national database soon, and I will update this site and provide information on the places I have already and will continue to visit, and hopefully it will provide some uniqe ways to overcome any barriers your company, or another you know of may have faced. Also remember, if you work for or know of a business anywhere in the U.S. that has a lactation station that should be highlighted, visit the Every Mother Website and submit the info!

This GORGEOUS "pumping-in-session" work-site door tag is via itsbetterathome Wordpress blog.
Click to read the inspiration behind it -- Revolutionary Breastfeeding Goddess #8: Finding Space.