Workplaces and Breastfeeding Support

According to the U.S. CDC, breastmilk is the best food for growth and development of infants and saves money in the short- and long- term. More than half of women with infants work.[1] In Maine more than four out of five women begin breastfeeding their infant.[2] By six months, only one in four women are meeting the recommendations of feeding their infants only breastmilk.2 Many women stop nursing their infant when they return to work. Adequate break time and a clean, private place to express breastmilk at work are important for nursing mothers.

Breastfeeding is good for employers

Workplaces that support mothers to continue to express breastmilk after returning to work have:

  • average annual savings of $400 per breastfed baby (lower medical costs with fewer health insurance claims)[3]
  • lower employee absenteeism rates (since babies are healthier)[4]
  • higher employee retention rates of 86-92 percent; national average is 59 percent4
  • improved morale, job satisfaction and productivity4

What employers can do to support nursing mothers

There is a federal law and a Maine law regarding employer support for mothers to continue to express breastmilk after returning to work. The Maine law applies to employers of all sizes and the federal law applies only to employers with 50 employees or more.

  • Employers with 50 employees or more

    • Implement the Federal law "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" by adopting a workplace policy that reflects the law
      • Provide nursing mothers adequate break time or mealtime to express breast milk.
      • Provide a clean, private space, other than a bathroom, in which to express milk.
    • Post the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Maine Workplaces Support Nursing Moms DOL Poster where employees can see it to make sure they are aware of the law.
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees

    • Implement the Maine Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Law (26 M.R.S.A. § 604) by adopting a workplace policy that reflects the law.

      The Nursing Mothers in the Workplace law took effect in Maine in 2009. It requires employers to:

      • Provide nursing mothers adequate break time or mealtime to express breast milk.
      • Provide a clean, private space, other than a bathroom, in which to express milk.
    • Post the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Maine Workplaces Support Nursing Moms DOL Poster where employees can see it to make sure they are aware of the law.
  • Create a policy supporting nursing mothers in the work place

    Your policy can save you money while making your workplace a healthier one. Bringing together a small group that includes employees, management and nursing mothers can help you to create a policy that will fit your workplace and meet Maine law. Larger workplaces may want to include someone from human resources, union representatives, top administration, maintenance staff, security staff, and others.

Use this Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Sample Policy as the basis for your workplace policy. Then, use this checklist to finalize your policy:

  • Review and discuss the sample policy
  • Update the sample policy to meet your workplace needs
  • Review and approve the draft
  • Create a final draft
  • Post the policy and give a copy to all employees

The Business Case for Breastfeeding This is a comprehensive program designed for employers to highlight how breastfeeding support contributes to the success of the entire business and offers tools to help employers provide support and privacy for breastfeeding mothers to express milk.

Employer Solutions for Supporting Nursing Moms at Work This online resource provides businesses with cost-effective tips and solutions for any industry setting.

[1] Employment Characteristics of Families -2014, Economic News Release 2015. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Immunization Survey, 2011 Births. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/rates-any-exclusive-bf-state-2012.htm

[3] Ball T, Wright A., Health Care Costs of Formula-feeding in the First Year of Life. Pediatrics. 1999;103,No. Supplement 1: 870 -876 https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/103/Supplement_1/870.abstract

[4] Easy Steps to Supporting Breastfeeding Employees