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Breastfeeding in the workplace

The Ontario Human Rights Commission1 states that:

  • It is against the law for workplaces to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding
  • An employer should provide a breastfeeding mother with enough time to breastfeed or express breast milk for her child
  • Employees who require breaks for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk should be given these breaks, and should not be asked to miss regular breaks or work additional time to make up for breaks taken

Benefits of breastfeeding in the workplace:

  • Less absenteeism due to healthier breastfed children
  • Higher morale and employee satisfaction because of breastfeeding support and accommodation
  • Less staff turnover because more breastfeeding women return to work

How to create a breastfeeding friendly environment:

Breastfeeding friendly room:

  • Provide a clean and comfortable space (not a bathroom) for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk
  • Room should have a comfortable chair with arm support for breastfeeding moms
  • A small table, chair and electrical outlet should be provided for those expressing breast milk
  • Use of signage (for example: room in use) to guarantee privacy
  • Provide a baby-changing table in a hygienic area
  • Ensure that a hand washing facility and access to a refrigerator (to store expressed milk) are located close to the room
  • Provide breastfeeding literature that can be obtained from local Public Health Unit2

How to provide breastfeeding support:

  • The International Labour Organization recommends two thirty-minute breaks in an eight-hour shift in addition to normal breaks
  • Discuss workplace’s breastfeeding policy with employees
  • Encourage breastfeeding employees to develop a supportive network with each other
  • Offer an extended maternity leave
  • Provide the option of part-time work, job sharing or flexible hours of work

References

  1. Ontario Human Rights Commission (2014). Policy on discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Toronto, Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-because-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding
  2. Public Health Association (2008). Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace. Toronto, ON: Ontario Public Health Association. Retrieved from http://www.opha.on.ca/getmedia/13d2a100-950b-46b1-8d3c-06b086a6fa4f/BreastfeedingFriendlyWorkplace-Sep08.aspx

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