A market for breastfeeding support- The Family Friendly Business Initiative

Supporting breastfeeding as a marketing tactic?

That’s what the Family Friendly Business Initiative is hoping businesses of all sizes will see in their project.  Providing families a way to find local businesses that have pledged to be a supportive space for breastfeeding mothers, the Family Friendly Business Initiative just asks participating businesses to provide a welcoming attitude and a comfortable clean environment for breastfeeding moms.  Companies that agree to participate get listed on the Initiative’s website, marked on a google map display to make finding them easier, shared on the Initiative’s Facebook page, listed in materials given to new moms in the local hospital, and given a decal to display identifying their location as a safe place for breastfeeding mothers.  In addition to the website, there is an app in the works which will make finding businesses in the Initiative an easy option in the palms of breastfeeding moms on the go.  For most businesses, it’s a business growth opportunity that may be too good to pass up.  It’s simple, easy, a medically endorsed community initiative, and full of benefits for the companies that choose to participate in the form of free marketing.

And based on a quick informal poll on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page, there’s a market for it too.

For some women, breastfeeding their child wherever they are, whatever they are doing is no big deal.  They are unfazed by the possibility of being asked to coverup or move.  But each woman has her own comfort level and many would prefer to find a place that is known to be “safe” for breastfeeding moms and where she and her little one can be left in peace.  For some, this challenge can be so overwhelming that they’d rather stay home than risk finding themselves out and about in a potentially hostile environment.  Moms that are afraid to leave the house due to concerns about finding a comfortable and welcoming place to breastfeed their baby are in jeopardy of either lowering their supply if they feel they must supplement which could lead to them not reaching their breastfeeding goals or increased risk of postpartum depression if they feel trapped in their home.

The Family Friendly Business Initiative is helping businesses that fit the bill connect with moms that are in need of breastfeeding friendly environments.  Mothers are a significant portion of the spending demographic, businesses know this, so for them to provide a safe place for moms to breastfeed without fear of harassment or discrimination can provide a boost to not only the family but the business and community as well.

In most states, mothers have the right to breastfeed their children wherever they have the right to be but, unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean they experience a warm welcome from businesses and employees or other customers.  Due to a lack of awareness of the laws supporting a mother’s right to breastfeed her child, some have experienced subtle or overt forms of discrimination and harassment so far as having businesses calling the police on breastfeeding mothers.  Repeatedly incidents make national or even global news where a business has told a mother to stop breastfeeding on their premises or leave.  Such experiences can intimidate mothers who desire to breastfeed into not leaving the house or compromising her breastfeeding goals.  These actions undermine the message health care professionals and scientists are giving moms that there are risks to artificial breastmilk substitutes, society isn’t walking the talk.

As a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor in Ames, Iowa, Jennifer Pitkin knew this reality first hand in her work to support moms in their breastfeeding journey.  Time and time again she heard from women that were afraid to breastfeed in public and would use formula if they had to go out, over time their breastmilk supply diminishing as a result.  For many of them, pumping was much harder than formula (and since not all moms respond well to pumps, not always a viable option) so they would switch for those feeds that happened while doing errands and shopping.  Talking with her local La Leche League and her retail manager husband, Jennifer was inspired to tackle this problem from a different angle and the Family Friendly Business Initiative was born.

Today, a year after this inspired idea to support moms and the businesses that support moms, the grass roots Family Friendly Business Initiative has grown to 4 local chapters and increasing interest from other states.  The participating businesses communicate their status as a Family Friendly Business to their employees including a letter displayed in the workers area explaining laws supporting breastfeeding and a mother’s right to do so in public.  These businesses may or may not designate an area specifically for breastfeeding mothers and the Family Friendly Initiative lists what kind of accommodations are available for families.  At this time 25 out of 28 businesses contacted have agreed to participate and while not all of them initially were sure about the opportunity, after some education most have enthusiastically joined.  It’s fairly simple for a company to be involved with many advantages not the least of which is a positive impact on the economy.  This medically endorsed community project supported by the Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition has been well received by Iowa State University, which is widely displaying the Family Friendly Business Initiative decals supporting both their faculty and their student breastfeeding population.  There is optimism that the Initiative will be well received by not just small businesses but large corporations as well.  Encouragement from costumers for companies to join can help influence these businesses to make participation in the Initiative a priority and make a difference for families in your area.

If you would like to see the Family Friendly Initiative in your area, email familyfriendlybusiness@gmail.com.  Another reference for businesses that welcome breastfeeding can be found at You Can Breastfeed Here.




  1. This is a wonderful idea. I am working to promote breastfeeding in my small town. Our hospital is already pretty pro breastfeeding, but if businesses openly let people know they’re breastfeeding friendly, I think it’ll help normalize it.

  2. I love, love, love this.

  3. I think this is amazing and it reminds me of what our local network of natural mothers are doing here in San Luis Obispo county, California. Visit bbrn.org to show your support!

  4. Although I’m from Iowa, I now live in El Paso, TX and would like to see this initiative here. Thanks for sharing and I can’t want to share this with my readers at http://elpasoportraits.com/types-sessions/maternity/.

  5. Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.