WorldWIT Celebrates “National Breast Feeding at Work Week”
The award-winning internationally-known opinion leader for women in business spotlights increasingly visible workplace issue
BOULDER, COLORADO – September 5, 2005 – WorldWIT announces the first annual National Breast Feeding at Work Week. WorldWIT, the world’s largest on- and offline community for professional women with chapters in 80 regions around the globe, introduces the week-long holiday, beginning on Labor Day, in response to the dozens of inquiries received from their membership of over 40,000 businesswomen on the topic of breastfeeding while working.
Since 1999, WorldWIT has established itself as a primary opinion leader and content source in the area of women at work in the white-collar world. The objectives of National Breast Feeding at Work Week are:
To promote full participation and equality for nursing women in the workplace;
To educate women who are deciding whether to breastfeed or pump milk upon returning to work after giving birth;
To describe the major factors involved in making the choice to breastfeed upon heading back to work;
To publicize the achievements of businesses that have made breast feeding accommodations and offer their nursing mom employees a private space, reasonable breaks, access to a lactation consultant, etc.
WorldWIT intends National Breast Feeding at Work Week to become an event widely recognized by businesswomen as well as companies small and large around the nation.
WorldWIT founder, former Fortune 500 VP of Human Resources, mother of five and award-winning entrepreneur, Liz Ryan, offers the following ‘tips’ for working nursing moms and for their employers below and openly discusses them on her ‘Business Mom’ blog – http://www.worldwit.org/Blogs.aspx:
TEN TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING AT WORK
1) Plan ahead! If you plan to express (pump) milk at your workplace, your toolkit should include:
a) A handheld or electric breastpump (unless the company has a pump available for your use)
b) Extra bottles, breastshields, and an ice pack if you plan to keep the expressed milk
c) A picture of your baby – looking at him or her makes the pumping easier
d) A bottle brush with a nipple-brush attachment, for cleaning bottles
e) A bottle of water for yourself (drinking promotes milk flow, and it’s important for your hydration), with a granola bar or an apple for a snack, and
f) A bag to carry everything in
If you will be breastfeeding your baby instead of expressing milk for him or her (some moms nurse in their cars in the parking lot, where their caregivers has brought the baby once or twice a day – or you might use a private area near the company’s reception desk, where your caregiver can bring the baby at mealtimes), make sure you have a blanket handy, and a nursing-friendly dress, blouse or sweater.
2) Work out logistics before you return to work. Talk with your boss and your company’s HR representative about your planned breastfeeding arrangements. You might pump milk (or nurse the baby in person) during your lunch hour, or during a break, or you may bring work with you to the pumping-or-nursing spot and work right through. If you’ll be pumping in your office, create a friendly Do Not Disturb sign for your door, plus instructions on how to leave you a message; and if you need to reserve space in a company lactation room or other pumping-or-nursing space, make sure you get that straightened out. Know before you return to work where you’ll store your expressed milk (keeping it cold until it’s time to go home) and where you can wash bottles afterward. Decide whether you will always try to save expressed milk for your baby, or pump-and-dump (to keep the flow of milk for your at-home time) or a combination.
3) Share your news. Let your workmates know your plan. They may wonder why you’re disappearing a few times a day, so fill them in on your baby-feeding plans and get them enrolled in your informal support group. Breastfeeding or pumping milk at work takes some time and energy, so you’ll want all the support you can get.
4) Use time wisely. If you plan ahead, you may be able to work while you nurse or pump, and many women like to do that rather than break the flow of their busy workday. You can use the pumping-or-nursing time to catch up on snail mail (or even catch up on email if you can get access to a computer in the location where you’re pumping or nursing), make phone calls, or browse the latest business periodicals.
5) Take it slowly. You may not pump all the milk you expected to right at first, or you and baby may be uncomfortable nursing in an unfamiliar spot and have trouble getting down to business. That’s okay. Making the effort to keep nursing your child when you return to work is a huge achievement on your part. Don’t hold yourself to an unrealistically high standard for milk production, calm nerves, or seamless integration of mom-time and work-time. It’s not easy, but you will get better with every nursing or pumping session.
6) Dress the part. Remember that certain outfits make pumping milk or breastfeeding easy, and others make it very difficult. The worst possible way to express milk or to nurse your baby is with your one-piece fitted wool jumper smashed up around your shoulders. Invest in nursing attire – it’s worth it, and you can sell it to a mom-and-children’s resale shop once you’ve stopped nursing.
7) Be sensitive to the variety of perspectives. Your workmates may range, in ‘breastfeeding orientation’ terms, from totally casual (“Go ahead and pump if you want to, I just want to tell you about this one customer call I made”) to very freaked out. Try to be sensitive to this range of views and experiences. For some of your colleagues, the idea of a woman breastfeeding or pumping at work may be brand new. To the eighteen-year-old who delivers the interoffice mail, it may be just plain gross. It’s not your job to educate everyone or make them comfortable, but it’s good to be aware that people have many different perspectives on the issue of milk, moms and work.
Find support. Seek out a mom’s group at your office or nearby, or even an online discussion group for mothers, to get support for your breastfeeding-at-work adventure. Plenty of people have walked this path before – the La Leche League is a great resource, and there are others in almost every region.
9) Speak up. If you’re in a meeting and you’re about to burst from unexpressed milk, don’t be a martyr – excuse yourself. Your need, for a period of months, to pump milk or nurse your baby during the workday is no different than another person’s need to take regular medication or otherwise manage his or her health in the workplace. Your nursing or pumping shouldn’t affect your work output, so don’t be apologetic about it.
10) Have pride. However long you continue to nurse or express milk while working, be proud of yourself! Women who make this great, healthy choice for themselves and their children deserve a ton of praise. Every month that you prolong your child’s nursing days is a boost for his or her overall health, and yours. And when it’s time to stop nursing or pumping at work, know that you’ve done something tremendously positive for your family, and served as a model for other women in your workplace. Pat yourself on the back!
TEN TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS
1) Communicate the program. Far too many employers remain silent on the subject of breastfeeding and expressing milk at work, although more forward-looking organizations are getting on the bandwagon every day. A great project for every corporate HR department is to create a New Mom’s Handbook that includes information on breastfeeding and pumping milk in the workplace. However evolved and sophisticated your organization may be (offering state-of-the-art lactation rooms, peer group support, and education for new moms – or none of the above), let the employees know what they can expect and how your organization responds to new moms’ needs.
2) Create some space. A lactation room is about the simplest kind of space to create in a workplace, and an important way to support mothers in their desire to keep feeding their children in the healthiest way after returning to work. A lactation room can be a former conference room, a tiny interview room connected to the reception area, or even a converted closet, as long as it’s ventilated, has electrical power, and enough room for a mom to sit comfortably with her pump on a table. In the best case, a lactation room includes a sink for washing up, a small fridge and freezer for storing expressed milk (and cold drinks for moms) and labels and Sharpies for labeling expressed milk. Nice-to-haves include a phone, computer with internet connection, rocking chair, and a stack of magazines.
3) Get involved. Too many companies leave breastfeeding and pumping arrangements up to individual employees and managers, instead of getting involved with some simple guidelines and statements of support. Even if a dedicated lactation room is not practical in your company, you can let managers know that breastfeeding or pumping is a strongly supported activity in your company, and help them accommodate new moms who want to nurse or express milk. Manager training – even a half-day session on the benefits and logistics of providing mother’s milk to infants – can allay concerns, cultural biases against nursing, or other issues.
4) Inquire. It’s a great thing for a manager to say to a mom freshly back in the workplace, “How is everything going, Nancy? I see you are expressing milk; can I help make that easier for you? Anything else I can do?” Your support need not be confined to the milk department, of course, but it’s wonderful for a nursing mom to feel that she has an ally in her endeavor to feed her baby as nature intended.
5) Create a support group. It costs nothing and is a very strong gesture for an employer to establish an informal Mothers’ Support Group that can meet at lunchtime in an empty conference room. You can invite local speakers to speak to the group, or let people share their own experiences and advice. It’s also easy to connect moms to one another via a companywide email-discussion group, so that people can participate in the discussion even when they can’t attend meetings in person. There is nothing more helpful to a new mom than non-judgmental peer advice.
6) Use the EAP. Most sizable employers use Employee Assistance Programs to help support their employees with personal, family, psychological and other off-work issues. An EAP can provide great support to new moms, on the topic of breastfeeding and many others. Check to see what kinds of services your EAP offers to working moms, and then get the word out!
7) Examine your rules. One new mom had to make a presentation to her company’s Facilities Committee just to get them to put a lock on her door, enabling milk-pumping in her office – because door locks were typically only granted to VP-level employees. Breastfeeding mothers don’t need special treatment, but they may need reasonable, human-centered problem solving to help them get their baby fed while keeping up with their work. An audit of your facilities, break time, and employee-access policies may point out areas where your rules are keeping moms from nursing or expressing milk at work (for instance, because the only suitable lactation space is on a limited-access R & D floor of the building). Fix them!
Publicize your support. It’s not only the nursing moms themselves who need to know that your company supports lactation – it’s every stakeholder in your organization, from employees to shareholders to vendors and customers. A company that supports mothers and children makes a strong statement for its commitment to individual and to the community. You will also make it easier for nursing moms, who often feel embarrassed as they sneak off to pump milk, by promoting your company’s family-friendly practices.
9) Invest in the hardware. An electric breast pump in the $1000 range is a great investment that can prevent many women in your company from having to purchase or rent, and then lug, her own heavy pump back and forth. If you find that several women at a time in your workplace are expressing milk – or see that trend emerging in the future – save your employees’ trouble and expense by providing the pump for their use.
10) Take a poll. Query your past and present nursing moms, via paper survey or online, and ask them what their experience of nursing or pumping milk at work was (or is) like. How can your company improve in supporting them? Publish the results to this group and to other employees to let them know that you are committed to supporting working parents and their families. Celebrate your successes, and start planning Phase Two!
For more information on National Breast Feeding at Work Week visit www.worldwit.org or contact Kristi Hughes at 215-816-2954 (or email email@example.com).
Founded in Chicago in 1999, WorldWIT (www.worldwit.org) is the world’s largest online networking organization for professional women in business, formed for women to share advice and ideas with other women eager to “connect.” It reaches over 40,000 women globally via moderated, local email discussion groups like ChicWIT (Chicago), HoustonWIT and BritWIT (Great Britain), and through local events and activities in 80 cities around the world. WorldWIT is also the proud winner of the 2004 Stevie™ Award for Best Woman’s Business Association.
The membership is free and is comprised of women who range from corporate CEOs to home-based consultants and entrepreneurs. Its founder, Liz Ryan, was the first female vice president at U.S. Robotics, and is a popular columnist, speaker and “at work issues” expert. She has been featured by such media as TIME, Fortune, The New York Times, CNN, CNBC and CN8. Liz is also a regular contributor to Business Week Online and the on-air workplace expert for Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9 News. WorldWIT is headquartered in Boulder, CO.