Returning to work after having a baby can be hard. Really hard. You’ve spent the last 6-12 weeks cuddling with this tiny miracle, and then suddenly you’re thrust back into the office environment. You go from soft, pink cheeks to grey cubicle walls. I grieved over leaving my baby at daycare. I cried about our impending separation. I thanked heaven that I work for Monsanto.
Prior to my return to work after the birth of my second child, I was able to speak candidly to my boss about my concern about leaving my baby. As a breastfeeding mother, finding the time and space to express milk for her during the day added another layer of complication to my work. I would need to leave my desk several times each day to ensure that my baby had enough milk to eat while she was at daycare. My boss made it clear that this was a work-life balance issue. She fully supported my need to be away from my desk to express milk for my baby, and she has continued this support during the last nine months that I’ve been back.
Monsanto supports its breastfeeding employees for a number of reasons. The company places a high priority on the health of its employees. In supporting mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding after their return to work, Monsanto supports an activity that has a direct, positive health impact in both the working mother and her baby.
Monsanto also recognizes the business benefits of supporting its breastfeeding mothers. These benefits can be so profound to a company that the US government has an initiative called The Business Case for Breastfeeding. Companies who support their breastfeeding mothers have higher employee retention rates, reduced absenteeism for employees caring for sick children, reduced insurance costs, and higher employee morale.
Supporting breastfeeding mothers just makes sense.
As one of the leaders of our corporate sponsored Breastfeeding Support Network, it’s been inspiring for me to help bring an award-winning support network to life. I’ve worked for other companies while breastfeeding, and at those companies I was grateful to be allowed to hop-scotch between empty conference rooms and unused executive offices. I remember dragging large potted plants over to block glass doors, and propping chairs under doorknobs to keep people from walking in. Still, that was better than what most women have access to. Realistically, breastfeeding moms don’t need much. All we need is a small space (not a bathroom), a locking door, a table to hold the bottles of milk, a chair to sit in, and an electrical outlet to plug in our pumps.
Monsanto goes way beyond that, and that’s why our vegetable seed manufacturing and commercial facility in Oxnard, CA received a Breastfeeding Friendly Award from the Breastfeeding Coalition of Ventura County and a commendation from the County of Ventura.
Breastfeeding moms at the Oxnard facility (both office staff and plant workers) have access to two permanent and dedicated rooms that are available only to breastfeeding moms for the purpose of expressing milk. The rooms have lockable doors, comfortable couches, large tables, locking cabinets to store personal equipment, and mini-fridges. The rooms also have telephones and corporate network access to allow mothers who wish to work while they express milk to do so.
The most exciting thing about the Oxnard facility is the addition of two new, state of the art, hospital grade, multi-user Ameda breast pumps. These are some of the highest quality pumps available today and are typically purchased by large hospitals for mothers to use to express milk to feed babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, but Monsanto purchased one for each room to be used by employees.
Not only do these pumps operate more efficiently than personal use pumps, but this generates a huge employee cost savings. Personal use pumps cost well over $250, but Oxnard employees simply have to purchase a $40 kit to be able to use the corporate owned Ameda pumps. This financial savings can make a big difference for working families. In addition to this, Monsanto has allied itself with a company that adheres to the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes, a decision that illustrates our commitment to human rights globally.
In addition to physical resources, Monsanto sponsors an internal website with up-to-date facts and information about common breastfeeding questions and concerns, current breastfeeding related news articles, and a discussion forum where mothers can ask questions and receive mother-to-mother support. Monsanto also sponsors a New Parent Return to Work program in which employees can work with a life coach to help ease the transition back to work.
If a mom needs to travel on business back to our St. Louis headquarters, she can call the onsite childcare facility and make arrangements to bring her baby with her on her business trip. She can also take advantage of the close to 30 Mothers’ Rooms available on our St. Louis campuses. Recently, the Monsanto Breastfeeding Support Network has taken steps to expand its reach globally to our office in Indonesia.
It has been almost nine months since I had that conversation with my boss about needing space and time to express milk. The transition back to work wasn’t an easy one. I missed my daughter terribly and it was painful to leave her each day at daycare. But the unwavering support from my manager and the resources provided by Monsanto eased the transition and have allowed me to continue to parent my daughter in the way that is best for our family.
I’m proud to work for a company that supports breastfeeding mothers so completely. I’m proud to work for Monsanto.