What’s in It for Employers?

There are bottom-line benefits for a business when its employees breastfeed their babies. Employees who breastfeed have lower absenteeism rates, because their babies are healthier — breast milk boosts babies’ immune systems, making them less likely to catch colds and other childhood illnesses — so parents spend more time at work rather than taking leave to care for sick children. Human milk is recognized by virtually every authority as almost always best for babies.

Numerous studies have documented that babies who are fed breast milk exclusively for at least the first six months have fewer ear, chest and gastrointestinal infections. There is even some evidence that such babies have increased cognitive (learning) function. Studies have shown that mothers who breastfeed have long-term decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancers and for osteoporosis.

Health care costs are lower for breastfed babies.

There are fewer physician visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions for these babies, which translates into lower health insurance claims for businesses. One two-year study by the insurance company CIGNA found that for 343 employees who participated in their lactation support program, the company experienced annual savings of $240,000 in health care expenses, with 62% fewer prescriptions, and realized $60,000 in annual savings from reduced absenteeism rates.

Businesses with worksite lactation programs also have lower turnover rates, which means lower costs for temporary staff, for recruiting, hiring and training new permanent staff. Bringing new employees up to speed can even mean lost revenue. Businesses with lactation support programs also report improved morale and job satisfaction, and higher productivity. Employees who feel supported at work experience easier transitions back to work after maternity leave, and often return to work earlier as a result.

Finally, a supportive environment for breastfeeding employees improves a company’s public image as “family friendly” and helps it recruit top staff. Many companies receive national and local recognition for their lactation programs, and enjoy positive media attention as well, further promoting the company’s goodwill in the community.

What follows is information gathered from many sources, which will help you, as an employer, weigh the benefits of lactation programs and practical solutions to some things you may anticipate could be problems for your business.

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