Workplace Barriers Lead Moms to Stop Breastfeeding, and That's Not Right

A recent study pointed out that workplace barriers to successful breastfeeding are bringing down rates of women who keep up with it after they go back to work.

Breast Pumping at Work Pikul Noorod/Shutterstock
Working moms face plenty of challenges when maternity leave comes to an end—and continuing to breastfeed your baby when you're away from him or her all day is undeniably one of the toughest aspects. 

But while pumping through the workday comes with its share of inherent challenges, workplaces should be doing more to make it as easy as possible for working moms. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and it's affecting breastfeeding rates in an alarming way. According to a recent study published in The Nurse Practitioner, 75 percent of mothers choose to breastfeed after they give birth, but only 40 percent keep it up when they return to work—and women whose workplaces are supportive of their breastfeeding needs are far more likely to keep going. Since breastfeeding offers up so many benefits for both mothers and infants, as many barriers to success as possible should be addressed.

The Affordable Care Act has helped to simplify breastfeeding access for new moms with the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" provision, under which nursing moms at workplaces with 50 or more employees must provide pumping breaks for their new-mom employees. Workplaces should also set up comfortable, clean rooms in which moms can pump privately in order to make the transition easier for nursing mamas. 

Ultimately, accommodating the needs of breastfeeding moms will go a long way in improving the overall health of moms and infants alike. While the study points out the ways in which nurse practitioners can help breastfeeding moms with education on their rights and prescriptions for breast pumps, for instance—employers and co-workers should support new moms in their breastfeeding efforts when they return to work. If you work with breastfeeding mothers, ask if you can help cover their workload while they take pumping breaks. If you employ them, make sure they have time to pump and a comfortable room in which to do so. And if you're a breastfeeding mama who will return to work, be sure to discuss your needs and concerns with your employer.

Working mamas, did going back to work make it impossible for you to continue breastfeeding? And if you were able to keep it up, what advice would you share with fellow working moms?