Your employee is returning to work after her maternity and bonding leave. What can you do to enable a smooth transition for her back into the workplace?
Before They Return to Work
Before your employee returns to work, send her an email congratulating her on the birth of her baby. Tell her that you are looking forward to having her back to work, send helpful information your company has on it's breastfeeding program, and encourage her to ask questions about her return. It is helpful for a mom to know what to expect and for her to know she will be returning to a supportive environment. This is especially important because mothers are often nervous about going back to work and leaving their newborn with a caregiver.
Breastfeeding Wellness Program and Policies
Employers should know what the federal and state law is for lactating mothers and ensure that your managers know as well. If you don’t have training or a policy in place, Healthy Horizons can help. When your employee asks about pumping breaks and a mother’s room, be prepared with an informational packet and resources. Having their managed educated on corporate breastfeeding policy ensures managers won’t be caught off-guard, and will avoid a potentially awkward discussion. Your manager should be able to answer questions on taking breaks, where to pump, and other breastfeeding wellness services your company offers.
Workplace breastfeeding publications from the US Government show that supporting breastfeeding at work increases employee retention and results in cost savings for the employer. Make sure to communicate the programs and services you have in place with your mothers returning to work. You can learn how to start or grow your program here.
An employee’s manager should discuss the work schedule and lactation breaks with the employee to ensure both of them understand the schedule with no surprises. Depending on the job function, some mothers and their managers need to plan specific times for pumping. While for other jobs, managers leave it up to the mother’s discretion to fit in her pumping routine, especially if her schedule changes daily. Many mothers feel nervous or uncomfortable approaching the topic of pumping at work with their managers. As a result, they try to get their pumping in between meetings, or wind up skipping pumping sessions. This can lead to reduced milk supply, medical issues, and not to mention a stressed employee. Managers should let their employees know that they are supportive and open to discussing their lactation needs, and can pull in HR if it makes the employee more comfortable.
Work-Life Balance and Schedule
Since having a baby is a big change in the employee’s life, it’s a best practice for the employee and manager to have a conversation about work-life balance. If there are work-life balance issues the employee is having, managers may be able to make temporary adjustments to the work schedule or the types of projects to help support the employee. For example, if a mother is having difficulty finding adequate child care coverage for the afternoon, she may be able to shift her schedule so she starts and ends her day earlier, or she could work hours in the evening while her husband looks after the baby. If it is an option, many mothers find it helpful to work from home for part of the week.
To support a smooth transition back to work, HR and an employee’s manager that supports a lactating mother will foster a supportive and successful working environment for the mother. Many people may not understand the importance of providing breastmilk to an infant, nor understand the difficulty of doing so. This can cause an uncomfortable environment for the mother. However, when co-workers see a manager being openly supportive, it will help create a positive working environment for the mother. The success of a working and lactating mother providing breastmilk for her child strongly depends on the support of her manager and workplace. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, infants should be exclusively fed breastmilk for the first 6 months, studies show that working mothers often stop before 6 months. This is due to a work environment that is not supportive or is hostile for towards a mom for wanting to pump milk for their infant.
Having supportive managers and co-workers in your company is essential to having successful working and breastfeeding mothers. A smooth back to work transition is a benefit to the mother because she will be able to provide the best food for the health and wellness of her baby, and be a more productive employee at your company.