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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mom Fired for Requesting a Lactation Room at Work

The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)

Have you heard about Heather Burgbacher, the Colorado teacher who was fired after requesting lactation accommodations at work? Heather is not alone, as we've heard in other stories like those of Marina Chavez or LaNisa Allen.

Yet positive stories of employers' support for breastfeeding employees abound. One mom told us: "I was supported by my employer to have breaks to pump whenever I needed. I had a private room with an outlet, chair and sink...all I needed to provide my daughter milk when I was at work."

"Is it really that easy," employers ask? YES!

Workplace lactation support is both simple and cost effective; programs can result in a three dollar return on investment for every dollar spent. The insurance company CIGNA found that their program resulted in an annual savings of $240,000 in health care expenses, 62% fewer prescriptions, and $60,000 savings in reduced absenteeism rates.

By reducing employee turnover, time off taken by both moms and dads to care for sick children, and health care and insurance costs, lactation support programs really do pay off. The Business Case for Breastfeeding, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers evidence of the value of supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace and easy steps for implementation. The National Business Group on Health has also published a related toolkit, issue brief, and tips for employers.

Despite these available resources, research suggests that employment remains a key obstacle for the more than 50% of new mothers who return to the labor force during their child's first year. According to a report published by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), "Employed mothers breastfeed at a rate approximately 15 percent below that of nonemployed mothers," demonstrating the significant barrier to breastfeeding success presented by employment. But the landscape of breastfeeding support is changing for the better…


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