According to our new research, nearly two-thirds (63%) of employers now offer support for new parents, but specific support for infant feeding is only offered by 29% of the two thirds, or 18% of employers overall.
We know that feeding issues are a source of concern for many new parents, and organisations that offer support via employee benefits are highly regarded by their staff.
The focus of World Breastfeeding Week this year is on education and support which is precisely what we’re encouraging employers to do.
Employers often struggle to find the right way to support new parents. They may send a bouquet of flowers after the birth, which is a lovely gesture, but having support from a paediatric expert will go so much further in helping them settle into this new phase of life and tackle inevitable questions and worries with confidence.
As well as helping individual employees, offering support for new parents also helps an organisation deliver on its cultural goals by demonstrating that it cares about the health and wellbeing of working parents and their families.
Types of support
As every new parent-child journey is individual, it is important that support offers flexibility and can be tailored to meet the needs of each family unit.
Feeding support should not only cover practical help such as advice and information from an expert such as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) on how to get started and how to create a feeding plan, but it also needs to cover common problems such as trouble latching on, allergies and reflux. As hormones and sleep deprivation mean this can be a testing time mentally as well as physically, emotional support is also recommended.
Ideally, support should not stop at helping new parents feel comfortable with their infant feeding decisions in the very early stages, but should provide ongoing support and practical guidance around introducing solids and weaning too.
Comprehensive support should also continue as the employee transitions back to work, as this can have implications for how parents decide to feed their baby. Employers may need to consider offering flexible working to accommodate breastfeeding or pumping breaks, and allocating a suitable room for such purposes.
As well as offering support from experts, employers could also consider setting up support groups for working parents to show that staff are recognised, respected and supported as parents throughout their careers too.
Long-term benefits for the employer
Employees who feel supported by their employer are more likely to be loyal. This is a key time for organisations to increase the retention of a gender-diverse workforce and eliminate the need to hire and train new staff if parents do not return to work after their parental leave.
Once back in the workplace, providing support for new parents may help to reduce employees’ need to attend doctors’ appointments, for both parent and child, as well as the amount of sick leave.
In particular, offering workplace support for breastfeeding helps new parents feel more at ease during working hours and increases breastfeeding parents’ sense of belonging and commitment to their employer.
At a time when NHS services are already hugely over-stretched, the value of personalised and empathetic care from an infant feeding expert is immense. In particular, support that is available digitally gives new parents the ability to source information at a time to suit them no matter what routine they or their new baby might be following.
Offering feeding support is one of the best new baby gifts that parents can receive, genuinely strengthening the bond between parent and baby and parent and employer.