UPFRONT If men breastfed….

Although new mothers are returning to work earlier and in greater numbers, there’s general perception that breastfeeding and paid employment just don’t mix.

That’s according to Women’s Health Action (WHA) who’ve just launched campaign that targets workplaces and aims to encourage employers and managers to establish breastfeeding-friendly policies and practices.

At present there’s yawning gap between goodwill and good practice. While recent WHA survey of Auckland employers revealed most businesses would be supportive of mothers breastfeeding at work, none had policies related to it and few reported anyone returning to work still breastfeeding.
Overall, there seems to be greater tolerance of the practice in an office environment, less for factory or shift workers. The most child-friendly workplaces have specific breastfeeding facilities – one of the less well-prepared suggested shower bench in the disabled toilet would do.

WHA says there are good business reasons for encouraging returning mothers to continue breastfeeding – one being that formula-fed infants get sick more frequently thus increasing parent absenteeism.

Clear Communications (now TelstraClear) which was awarded an EEO work/life award in 2001 estimated $75,000 savings per high-performing employee as consequence of their breastfeeding-friendly policy. Estimated savings on employees returning to work following the birth of child were $750,000.

WHA recommends the businesses develop and communicate breastfeeding policy to start dialogue on the issue between employers and staff as well as provide designated area and breastfeeding breaks. This would encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.

Their campaign promotion suggests that if men breastfed, it would work at work. Hmmmm…

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