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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives


     Indian Health Manual
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Circular Exhibit 06-05-B

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
FOR SUPERVISORS WHO HAVE EMPLOYEES WHO WISH TO WORK
AND PUMP THEIR BREASTS OR EXPRESS MILK

Q.  What do I say to an employee who requests to express milk or pump while working?

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Indian Health Service (IHS) encourages all women to exclusively breastfeed their infants for 6 months before introducing solid foods and to continue to breastfeed for 12months.  The IHS policy supports American Indian and Alaska Native women, infants, children, and families by allowing women who choose to breastfeed to express or pump breast milk at work throughout the duration of her breastfeeding.

Share the IHS Lactation Support Program circular and your locally developed materials with the employee and support and encourage female staff to express milk in the IHS workplace.

Resources for assistance include the Phoenix Indian Medical Center Breastfeeding Support toll free hot line:  1-877-868-9473,and the National Women’s Health Information Center’s Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.  Resources on breastfeeding are also available in your local Yellow Pages.  The IHS breastfeeding web site is: http://www.ihs.gov/babyfriendly/

Q.  What are the arrangements, private space, and reasonable accommodations that I should provide for an employee?

You should consider accommodations to ensure privacy, your facility may consider a lockable door, accessible electrical outlets for an electric breast pump, a sink close by for hand washing and rinsing out storage containers, a comfortable chair, and a small table.  A sign-up sheet may be necessary to ensure that all those needing the lactation room will have the opportunity to use it.

Q.  Is human milk a hazard?

Human milk is not a hazard in the work environment.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not recognize human milk as a health hazard.

Q.  How Shall I Store It?

The breast milk should be stored in a container clearly labeled and dated, in a refrigerator, or packed in a portable lunch box cooler with an icepack.  Breastfeeding mothers feel more secure if the stored milk is readily available and accessible.

Q.  What equipment?

Optimally, you can provide a hospital grade electric pump.  If you and your program are able to provide this equipment, you can find out about breastfeeding resources on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages.  Resources for assistance include the Phoenix Indian Medical Center

Breastfeeding Support toll-free hot line: 1-877-868-9473,and the National Women’s Health Information Center’s Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.  Resources on breastfeeding are also available in your local Yellow Pages.  The IHS breastfeeding web site is:

http://www.ihs.gov/babyfriendly/

Q.  What equipment does the employee need to provide?

The employee needs to provide containers for breast milk storage, a small cooler, with ice, and a breast pump.

Q.  Won’t this take away from my employee’s productivity?

Employers benefit when their employees breastfeed.  Breastfed infants are sick less often; therefore, maternal absenteeism from work is significantly lower in agencies with breastfeeding-friendly promotion programs.  As a rule, studies have found medical costs are lower and employee productivity is higher for women with breastfed infants.

The 15-20 minutes it usually takes to pump or express milk can easily be performed during employee’s breaks and lunch period, with minimal, if any reduction in employee productivity or workplace disruption.  Many companies report greater employee productivity and loyalty following he adoption and promotion of a lactation support policy at work.

Employers reap the following potential benefits from implementing lactation support programs include:  reduced absenteeism for care of ill children; lower health care costs; improved ability to attract and retain trained employees; and a family-friendly image in the community.

Q.  How do I respond to co-workers?

The IHS and HHS have a policy that allows women who breastfeed to express breast milk throughout the duration of her breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is especially important because of its health protective effects against the new epidemics of diabetes and obesity.

Q.  What if the employee takes longer than their designated lunch hour or breaks?

Ideally the breastfeeding woman should be allowed a flexible schedule for milk expression and pumping.  Usually the time allowed would not need to exceed the normal time allowed for lunch and breaks.  For time above and beyond normal lunch breaks, sick/annual or unpaid leave may be used with authorization by their supervisor.  The supervisor and employee may negotiate a flexible schedule so that the employee arrives at work earlier than the usual time or stays later than the usual time, to work the full scheduled workday.

Q.  Do some companies allow women to express or pump milk in her work space?

Some company policies allow for this type of work accommodation.  Your workplace policy should clarify where an employee can express milk or pump discreetly.

Q.  What do I do if the employee becomes disruptive?

If there is a disruption, the supervisor is advised to handle the disruption like other disrupting behaviors.  If there is a disruption, the manager is encouraged to explore scheduling and environmental issues.


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