For the past 30 years, the National Security Agency (NSA) has actively supported nursing mothers in the workplace, distinguishing itself as a leader in the federal government with an award-winning lactation program. August is National Breastfeeding Month, but the issue is a key part of the agency's commitment to work-life balance all year long.
And NSA recently celebrated the grand opening of its state-of-the-art nursing mothers' suite.
Kathy Hutson, NSA's associate director for human resources, touts the Nursing Mothers program as an initiative that has garnered positive results for the agency. "Everyone – the working mothers and the Agency – benefits from this program. NSA provides the locations, flexible work hours, and support necessary for our working moms to be successful at home and at work."
Research has consistently shown that breastfeeding provides a lifetime of wellness benefits for both mother and child, including a reduced risk of certain illnesses and infections. The workplace may also benefit from lower medical costs – as well as employees having to spend less time away from work because of health challenges.
NSA provides more than 35 campus locations supporting more than 200 nursing mothers. The designated rooms are outfitted with breast pumps and refrigerators for milk storage, among other appliances. The rooms also offer a convenient, welcoming place for new and experienced moms to network and swap tips.
"It was great to connect with other working moms who had babies the same age as mine and to be able to give and receive advice, or just vent about the sleepless night before," said Katy, a former nursing mother and an NSA facilities designer who helped design the new suite. "Having that support really helped me get through the first year of my baby's life and made me feel like I had better work-life balance."
The agency supports its employees by offering a broad array of resources to help employees manage work responsibilities and family commitments. In addition to the lactation program, the agency offers flexible work schedules, telework, and financial coaching, for example. NSA's achievements on that front have not gone unnoticed. Among the agency's awards: a Seal of Distinction from the WorldatWork Alliance for Work-Life Progress each year from 2012 through 2015.
"I am so grateful to the agency for making the nursing mothers' rooms and program a priority," said Raquel, who works at NSA and takes advantage of the facilities. "They've given us clean, safe, and comfortable spaces to continue feeling like mothers even though we've returned to work."