When your employees return to work from parental leave, feeding their baby is often one of their first concerns. Being able to breastfeed at work, pump and store milk, or afford healthy formula, adds stress and complexity to the already difficult prospect of returning to work. In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we’re shining a light on the challenges new parents are facing in the era of hybrid work, and how HR teams can help.
Breastfeeding is a crucial part of returning to work
Breastfeeding is incredibly important to the health of both the baby and their parent. According to the World Health Organization, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding with solid food for at least two years leads to better mental and physical health results for both the child and breastfeeding parents. Breastfeeding also reduces the child’s risk for asthma, obesity, and cancer.
Since mothers in the US typically return to work after 3 months, companies should consider what proactive steps they can take to ensure new mothers have the time, space, and respect they need to pump. Lack of employee awareness about the needs of breastfeeding parents is one of the biggest hurdles many companies need to face, but there are significant ways you can support them.
Barriers to breastfeeding
While breastfeeding is important, a staggering 60% of breastfeeding parents cease lactation earlier than desired for the following reasons:
- They’re experiencing pain during lactation
- They fear adverse outcomes for their or their baby’s health
- They don’t have a comfortable place to breastfeed at work
- They’re experiencing challenges with low supply
Breastfeeding challenges are more common than people think, and can often contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression among your employees. Some major barriers to breastfeeding success include language and literacy barriers, lack of access to information and educational resources that support and promote breastfeeding, and finally, a lack of social, work, and cultural acceptance. These barriers contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding rates, as well as lower rates of breastfeeding among low-income families.
Supporting breastfeeding in the workplace
Returning to work for new parents looks a little different post-pandemic—and with new variants on the rise and a new school year around the corner, there’s a lot for new parents to consider, and a lactation room at work isn't enough to solve their problems. To support breastfeeding parents during hybrid work, HR leaders can offer a few essential benefits:
Give breastfeeding parents access to specialty care
Becoming a parent is one of life’s most significant changes. When it comes time to transition back to work in a hybrid model during a stressful pandemic, parents may face increased pressure to resume business as usual without acknowledging that this transition into working parenthood is a major adjustment.
Maven provides specialty care to breastfeeding parents, including:
- Mental healthcare: Mental health is critical for new parents in the postpartum period—according to the Seleni Institute, as many as one in five new mothers in the United States suffer from postpartum anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Members can make appointments with mental health providers in Maven’s virtual clinic when they need them.
- Dedicated care advocates: Care Advocates help ensure that members take care of their bodies and minds. They check in on new parents regularly and book appointments for them with providers in Maven’s virtual clinic based on clinical guidelines and individual needs—all the while helping to fill in gaps in access to postpartum care.
- Lactation consulting: Lactation Consultants provide education, empathy, counseling, praise, and affirmation of one’s experience. Video appointments with a Maven Lactation Consultant can make all the difference for a new mother navigating the complex world of breastfeeding and pumping and provide helpful guidance on milk supply, latching issues, pain, mastitis, or other issues.
- Career coaching: Career Coaches help new parents prepare for the return-to-work transition, and after they’re back at work adjusting to their new reality as working parents. The rate of member engagement with career coaches increases throughout the postpartum period—proving the critical role in this transition.
Offer breastmilk shipping
Maintaining pumping becomes even more complex when breastfeeding parents face the pressure of traveling for work while getting breast milk home to the baby. Offering breast milk shipping can help new parents stay on schedule and achieve their breastfeeding goals, and offer one less headache to deal with when readjusting to work.
Maven Milk offers convenient domestic and international travel kits for breastmilk shipping. Care Advocates do all the legwork, including researching pumping rooms, scheduling pumping into your work travel schedule, and ensuring your kit is at your accommodations when you arrive at your destination.
Provide continuous postpartum care benefits
The postpartum period is a critical period of change and adjustment for new parents. Of course, once the baby arrives, attention shifts almost entirely to caring for and meeting the baby’s needs, but postpartum care for new parents themselves is often downplayed or forgotten, despite its importance.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), many women who have given birth never attend a postpartum visit, which is problematic for long-term health outcomes. As ACOG states, “underutilization of postpartum care impedes management of chronic health conditions and access to effective contraception, which increases the risk of short interval pregnancy and preterm birth.” As of its recently updated guidance published in 2018, ACOG recommends postpartum care that is both immediate (within the first three weeks postpartum) and ongoing for new mothers. It suggests holistic support that is emotional, physical, mental, and individualized to meet a woman’s needs.
Maven ensures that new parents are equipped with the information they need to navigate the “fourth trimester” and beyond and provides much-needed access to specialized care for themselves and their new baby.
Maven supports members throughout their breastfeeding journeys
HR departments can create a benefits ecosystem that guides new parents through their breastfeeding and postpartum journeys with Maven. By providing access to breast milk shipping, virtual appointments with lactation consultants, online classes on breastfeeding, Maven’s telehealth platform complements and augments in-person maternal care. Breastfeeding parents can stay better engaged in their care by speaking to specialists on-demand as soon as issues or questions arise, making all the difference for parents navigating their new, sleep-deprived reality once their baby enters the world.
Are you ready to start providing holistic breastfeeding benefits to your employees? One in four members say Maven helped with breastfeeding within the first few weeks of delivery, and 40% of Maven members report Maven helped with breastfeeding by the program’s end. Get started here.
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