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LLL Breastfeeding Helpline-US and the Department of Health and Human Services Join Forces to Help Employed Mothers and Business Bottom Line

Sarah Miner, Associate Coordinator, LLL Breastfeeding Helpline-US
From: Leaven, Vol. 45 No. 2-3, 2009, pp. 60-62

The LLL Breastfeeding Helpline—US, in conjunction with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, initiated a program to expand its nationwide outreach to breastfeeding mothers with the goal of focusing on the special needs of employed mothers. The new outreach will assist mothers with breastfeeding management help and provide information on securing employer support for their decision to breastfeed.

Now, with the recent influenza outbreaks, mothers are concerned about the health of their babies, and breastfeeding has been shown in numerous studies to be protective against many illnesses. This new program is designed to help mothers demonstrate to employers that healthier babies translate into significant bottom line benefits for companies. It is particularly important to note in these tough economic times, that for every dollar spent on lactation support, employers save $3 US.

Breastfeeding employees help the business bottom line in numerous ways:

  • Lower medical costs and health insurance claims for breastfeeding employees (up to three times less for breastfeeding employees);
  • Reduced turnover rates (86-92% of breastfeeding employees return to work after childbirth when a lactation support program is provided compared to the national average of 59%);
  • Lowered absenteeism rates (up to half the number of one day absences); and
  • Improved productivity, employee morale and company loyalty.

The LLL Breastfeeding Helpline-US is toll-free (1-877-4-LALECHE) and staffed around the clock, seven days a week by Leaders across the country. As part of the new program, these Leaders have been given additional training in assisting mothers and breastfeeding specialists so that they can help callers demonstrate to their employers the benefits of supporting breastfeeding employees.

While all nursing mothers need information and support, employed mothers also need to know how to approach their employers about their needs. New mothers may feel wary about approaching their supervisors or colleagues about their special needs, which may include a place to express milk in privacy; flexible breaks and work options, education, and support. In addition to the wealth of LLL resources available, the LLL Breastfeeding Helpline-US also has direct project support from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

The DHHS has produced a toolkit to help employed mothers. The Business Case for Breastfeeding toolkit is a comprehensive resource kit that is designed to help employers create a breastfeeding friendly work environment. It includes booklets for business and human resource managers to use to support breastfeeding employees and also an employee's guide to breastfeeding and working. Also included is an outreach and marketing guide with reproducible resources and a CD-ROM. On the DHHS website, this toolkit may be ordered and shipped at no charge to recipients within the United States.

In addition to direct telephone help, those who call the helpline will be directed to other resources. A link will direct them to additional breastfeeding information, including information on the Helpline's web site (www.breastfeedinghelpline.com), several sections of LLLI's website, and to the free, downloadable "Easy Guide to Breastfeeding" (http://www.4woman.gov/pub/BF.General.pdf ), and a free toolkit that can be used in presenting the Business Case for Breastfeeding to employers (www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/programs/business-case).

As Leaders we know that working mothers face greater challenges in starting and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship. It is estimated that 15% of US mothers who are planning to return to employment do not even begin breastfeeding because of the anticipated difficulty of combining breastfeeding and employment. One study found that in the month a mother starts work, her odds of weaning are 2.4 times the odds of a mother who did not start working that month.

"When working mothers call LLL and receive information and support, they are then able to explain to their employers why breastfeeding not only benefits babies, but also companies," said Susan Prado, BA, LLLL, IBCLC, RLC, coordinator of the Helpline. "From their knowledgeable employees, employers are then able to realize the bottom line benefits of establishing a lactation program. As a result, breastfeeding duration rates for employed mothers will increase."

A press release was distributed to over a thousand media contacts across the country. An advertising campaign in mainstream publications is part of the project and will spread awareness of the Helpline and its resources specifically for employed mothers. In addition to the excellent information on LLL websites and the DHHS website, mothers who call the Helpline are referred to local Leaders for meetings and additional personal support. We all help mothers, providing them with the information, education, and support they need to combine working and breastfeeding.

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