5 Ways to Empower Breastfeeding Parents at Work

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From day one, 81% of mothers in the U.S. breastfeed their babies; but by month 6, this falls to 51%, according to the CDC. There can be many reasons for this, one of which is a lack of support when returning to work. August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the perfect time for employers to take key steps to be more supportive of breastfeeding parents. 

One Maven member, a graphic designer who returned to work at five-weeks postpartum, shared her story:

“Pumping presented a huge challenge. There was no dedicated space for women to pump. I only got half-hour breaks, so I would eat my lunch while I pumped in the bathroom. It was so inconvenient that eventually I gave up pumping and breastfeeding altogether at about 3 months.”

It doesn’t have to be like this. 

Employers can take a few key steps to not only support but empower working parents to keep nursing, and Maven is here to help to improve the health of baby and mom, increase retention and productivity, and lower employers’ costs. 

Breastfeeding Awareness Month is an opportunity to review existing policies and implement new ones, starting with these five ways to empower breastfeeding parents in your workplace. 

1. Make your office pumping-friendly.

All offices should have a private lactation room that is designated only for pumping and fully functional. Here’s a quick checklist to make your office as comfortable and supportive as possible for new parents who are pumping: 

  • Each private lactation room in your office should have the following: a door that locks, a comfortable chair, a flat surface on which to place a pump, paper towels or wipes, a mirror, an electrical outlet, and a sink for easily cleaning and sterilizing pumping supplies. 

  • Designate shelves in a shared refrigerator or freezer for breast milk or—better yet—put a refrigerator in the pumping room that’s only for breast milk.

  • Consider providing a hospital-grade pump for employees to use in the office with ample equipment for sterilizing between uses.

2. Embed flexibility and encourage parents to set pumping schedules. 

When returning to work, women need to pump as often as they breastfed—every 2-3 hours—in order to maintain their milk supply as well as avoid leaking, pain, and serious infections like mastitis. While the frequency of pumping may decrease as a baby grows, it’s important to give women control over when they pump and for how long. Ensure working parents feel ownership and flexibility over their own schedules, and encourage them to block time for pumping on their calendars when they return from leave. Assure them that they have the support of their manager and HR in respecting their schedules. 

3. Provide employees access to meet with a Lactation Consultant and/or a Back-to-Work Coach on Maven. 

“I suffered from mastitis (inflammation that prevented me from breastfeeding) after my baby was born and thanks to Maven, got in touch with a doctor and a Lactation Consultant the same day! Had it not been for Maven, I would’ve been navigating my condition (which I had no clue about!) alone.” 

This Maven member illuminates why Lactation Consultants are one of the top provider types our members are booking appointments with in the postpartum period. They can make all the difference in navigating the complex, emotional, and frustrating world of breastfeeding and pumping, and provide helpful guidance on milk supply, latching issues, pain, or the like. Career Coaches can also help prepare employees for conversations they’ll need to have about setting expectations and respecting their schedule when they return to work, and can provide guidance for making requests if a work environment could do more to meet their needs.  

4. Train managers and employees to understand policies, set expectations, and be respectful of colleagues’ schedules. 

Let’s be real: many working parents report feeling a “breastfeeding stigma” from their coworkers and making it the responsibility of an individual to communicate their rights to coworkers can worsen negative interactions or even harassment between colleagues. A simple solution? Educate all employees—not just managers and new parents—about women’s breastfeeding needs and the company policies in place to support them. Set clear expectations and hold managers accountable in helping you create a culture that is respectful of colleagues who are pumping. 

5. Offer breast milk shipping benefits.  

When traveling for work, maintaining pumping becomes even more complex, with the added time and pressure of researching and arranging travel logistics and accommodations. Offering breast milk shipping like Maven Milk can go a long way toward making work travel less stressful, helping to increase satisfaction and retention. Maven Milk offers convenient domestic and international travel kits, with care advocates who do all the legwork including researching pumping rooms, scheduling pumping into your work travel schedule, and making sure your kit is at your accommodations when you arrive.


The Link Between Family Wellness Benefits and Employee Productivity

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For every $100 that one company spent on its wellness programs, it earned $176 in employee productivitya return on investment of 76.3%. 

That’s the latest data from a recent study published in the journal Management Science that proves that wellness benefits can save companies money and may even boost company performance by increasing employee productivity, reducing absenteeism, and lowering health insurance costs.  

Let’s unpack that further. 

Why are more employers focusing on wellness? 

It goes without saying that healthier employees are not only less expensive and less absent, but are also more productive. Wellness benefits include offerings not covered by traditional health packages like coaches or guidance related to overall physical and emotional health and well-being. The authors of this new study conclude that wellness programs can drive outcomes in two ways: 

  1. By increasing employees’ job satisfaction: Employees feel more satisfied in their jobs—and are therefore more motivated to work harder—when they believe that their employers genuinely care about their overall quality of life and well-being. 

  2. By increasing their capability: By improving overall physical and emotional health, the wellness program appears to have improved average worker productivity by over 4%—approximately equal to adding an additional day of productive work per month for each employee. 

Why wellness is a key piece of a holistic family benefits solution

For individuals starting families or beginning to navigate a path to parenthood, wellness is a key piece of their healthcare and any holistic family benefits solution should include access to wellness. 

Here are just a few reasons why wellness is core to Maven’s family benefits solution:  

  • Nutrition is especially important for pregnant women, and has also been proven to improve fertility for both men and women. (National Center for Biotechnology Information)

  • Access to mental health providers and relationship coaches can be critical to reducing stress, as adoption or fertility struggles can increase depression and anxiety, and negatively impact relationships. (Medical News Today)

  • Consulting with specialists including career or sleep coaches and lactation experts can directly impact a new parent’s return to work, improving their productivity, performance, and overall satisfaction.  

 

For individuals starting families or beginning to navigate a path to parenthood, wellness is a key piece of their healthcare and any holistic family benefits solution should include access to wellness.”

 

Bridging the gap with clinical healthcare plus wellness, in one

Maven is bridging these gaps by providing a holistic, end-to-end family benefits platform with over 1,400 high-quality providers that span 20+ specialties including:

  • Wellness specialists: think career coaches, nutritionists, and sleep coaches; 

  • Behavioral experts like maternal mental health providers; and 

  • Clinical practitioners like OB-GYNs, reproductive endocrinologists, pediatricians, physical therapists, and more. 

Maven’s care advocates are the core of our human approach, providing 1:1 guidance and customized support at each stage of an individual’s path, ensuring coordinated care to address their health and wellness needs. 

The Bottom Line

With one family benefits platform like Maven, employers can demonstrate their commitment to employees’ overall health and well-being, while driving satisfaction and productivity, improving health outcomes, and lowering costs. 


How Clinically Managed Fertility Benefits Drive Outcomes

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Fertility benefits are on the rise as employers look for new ways to attract and retain talent. 44% of employers with more than 20,000 workers offered some sort of IVF benefit in 2018, according to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, compared with 37% in 2017—and that number is expected to rise, as the demand for fertility services has hit record highs each year since 2008. 

High-quality fertility benefits are helping to drive employee retention, satisfaction, and loyalty. Employees whose companies covered their fertility treatments reported a greater feeling of loyalty toward their employers: employees are 1.5 times more likely to recommend working for their employer if they offer fertility benefits. On the flip side, over half of female employees whose companies don’t offer fertility benefits say that they would consider changing jobs to get them. 

What are ‘best-in-class’ fertility benefits? 

According to Fertility IQ’s 2016-2017 rankings of “The Best Companies to Work For as a Fertility Patient,” truly “best-in-class” fertility benefits packages are marked by the following components: 

  • No cap on the cost of fertility treatment;

  • Benefits are equally available to anyone including same-sex, LGBTQIA+ couples, and single parents by choice;

  • Employees have the freedom to choose their own clinics and providers; and 

  • Commonly-used “add-on” treatments—like pre-implantation screening, which helps minimize the rate of miscarriage—are included in coverage. 

Perhaps the most critical opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves, however, lies mostly in the “how”. 

 

Employees are 1.5 times more likely to recommend working for their employer if they offer fertility benefits.

 

Understanding the limits and outcomes of unmanaged fertility benefits

Employers can offer two types of fertility benefits: lifetime maximum benefits or clinically managed solutions. A lifetime maximum fertility benefit, or unmanaged reimbursement, is the most common, with companies providing a maximum dollar amount that they will reimburse an individual employee up to for fertility treatments, including IVF, medication, and IUI. But the money is where it stops. 

Without any guidance on how to use the reimbursement, individuals are left to navigate the complex fertility journey alone. Unmanaged fertility benefits can lead to dramatically increased claims as treatments administered without proper coordinated care and clinical guidance frequently lead to multiple births—associated with increased health risks for women and their offspring, as well as substantial financial costs to families and employers. An unmanaged benefit can also impact employee productivity, absenteeism, and mental health as the fertility journey can be draining, time-consuming, and stressful. 

What’s worse, many of these policies leave out LGBTQIA+ couples and single parents, as it’s common for plans to stipulate that employees engage in 6-12 months of heterosexual intercourse before becoming eligible for fertility treatments. 

Why clinically managed solutions are key 

To implement a more effective and inclusive fertility benefit and drive the most desired outcomes of successful pregnancies and healthy births, all at lower overall costs, companies should provide a clinically managed solution that supports employees through each step of the complex fertility process. Clinically managed solutions connect clinical experts to employees and support each individual through their own personal path to reach their goals, guiding them to the best doctors, treatments, and medications at the lowest overall cost.

Here’s how Maven’s clinically managed fertility program drives outcomes: 

  • Guidance & navigation: 24/7 Care Advocates provide individual guidance and referrals to clinics with high-success rates, helping reduce rounds for employees and spend for employers. 

  • On-demand specialists: Maven members can talk to fertility specialists including Reproductive Endocrinologists, Mental Health Providers, and Relationship Coaches, helping to reduce stress and increase work engagement; plus, Maven’s Nutritionists specialize in fertility and help improve the likelihood of success in fewer rounds.

  • Unlimited appointments: Members can book as many video chat and messaging appointments as they need to, any time, with Maven’s providers.

  • Emotional support and content: Maven provides resources, webinars, and content with clinically-approved educational information, and members can connect in community forums with other members who have had similar experiences.

A holistic, end-to-end approach like Maven means any individual employee has support, guidance, and on-demand access to clinical experts at every step of their fertility journey. 

 The Bottom Line

By offering a high-quality, clinically managed fertility benefit like Maven, companies can stand out in a tight labor market, increase employee loyalty, and demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, while driving down claims, increasing ROI, and improving fertility experiences and outcomes for individuals.