Implementing a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace programme

People are our most valuable resource!

People are also our most expensive resource. Recruitment, training, salaries and benefits are the direct costs, but there are also the indirect costs resulting from staff turnover, low morale, poor concentration, absenteeism etc. Women make up about half of our employment resource and women of childbearing age are a significant and growing segment of the labour market.

Employers of choice and those that top the 'Best Places to Work' lists are the employers who have an employee centred attitude which recognises that people friendly workplaces can yield enormous benefits in terms of employee loyalty and satisfaction, reduced turnover, greater productivity, motivation and cooperation.

No one doubts that a healthier child makes for a happier, more productive parent. The irreplaceable benefits of breastfeeding have been shown conclusively. Children exclusively breastfed up to the age of six months and who are breastfed alongside complementary foods up to the age of two years enjoy optimal health and development in the short and long term.

Companies that are recognised as leaders are those with the confidence and commitment to try creative solutions. They don’t just change their products or their technology or their marketing; they change their workplace to meet the needs of their most valued resource – people. 


Steps to Implementing a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace (BFW) Programme

To become a BFW only takes the commitment of management, a positive attitude and the desire to be creative and flexible:

  1. Obtain executive commitment
  2. Establish a working group
  3. Gather the facts
  4. Generate support and gain buy-in 
  5. Implement the programme
  6. Achieve Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Certification
  7. Assess the programme
  8. Publicise 
1. Obtain Executive Commitment 
Obtaining senior executive commitment to moving forward is essential for the programme's success.
  • Present a proposal, outlining steps and strategies to implementation (use this document as a framework if it helps), approximate time frames and resources required and most importantly, the benefits to the organisation of being breastfeeding friendly and BFW Certified. 
    • If necessary, initially present the proposal as one which will investigate what would be required to become breastfeeding friendly. 
2. Establish a Working Group 
  • A Working Group/Task Force etc, to implement the programme strengthens corporate responsibility, broadens expertise, increases resources and offers solutions for creative problem solving. 
  • The group should include some of the representatives identified below (under "Generate support and gain buy in") and will need to:
    • Clarify objectives and time frames
    • Identify the issues pertinent to the organisation
    • Recommend strategies that will address the issues and needs of breastfeeding employees; breastfeeding policy, flexible work options etc. The BFW Standard has all the criteria for best practice implementation
    • Ensure good communication within the organisation to build trust and support
    • Advise on and monitor implementation of the programme
    • Act as role models of support and information for breastfeeding at work
    • Monitor and assess implementation
  • The Group should be sensitive to any problems and be quick to take remedial action. 
3. Gather the facts:
4. Generate support and gain buy-in
  • Talk to employers who are already breastfeeding friendly.
  • Talk to the decision-makers and stakeholders within the organisation about the benefits and issues of being a BFW. These could include but are not limited to: 
    • Senior managers
    • Staff and union representatives
    • HR practitioners 
    • Occupational health and safety practitioners 
    • Staff who have previously taken or currently taking parental leave 
    • Pregnant employees 
    • Facilities and financial managers 
  • Expect some scepticism and resistance but also expect support to come from unlikely places .
  • Identify external agencies, community resources and health professionals who may be able to give support, assistance or information e.g: 
  • Most importantly communicate the programme's aims to staff. Notice boards, intranet, induction programmes and annual reviews are good ways to spread the word. Ensure this communication process is kept up and that employees have an opportunity to have input. 
5. Implement the Programme
  • Once corporate decision-makers have given commitment to becoming breastfeeding friendly, the implementation process becomes easy. 
  • The Working Group’s activities will identify organisation-specific issues and strategies. 
  • The process of obtaining certification will lead you through the necessary steps to establish a BFW: 
    • Access the Members Only pages of this site and get The Standard, Templates, Tools and Resources for becoming a BFW 
    • Work through the Standard’s four areas of Time, Facilities, Systems and Culture; identify gaps and address them as necessary 
  • Long term success of the programme will also depend on the following: 
    • Continued senior management support 
    • Good communication and information dissemination strategies (internally and externally) 
    • Monitoring and review strategies 
    • Evaluation 
6. Achieve BFW Certification
  • Complete the Standard’s checklist and answer the audit questionnaire.
  • Upload documents for auditing.
  • Undertake any corrective actions required by the auditor.
7. Assessment
Both during implementation and at the end of a trial period the programme should be assessed. Any necessary adjustments can then be made in policy and practice.

8. Publicise
Publicise your organisation as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace that has achieved independent recognition, and benefit from the positive public knowledge that you are socially responsible and an Employer of Choice.