Make place for moms to feed ba­bies at work

World Breast­feed­ing Week aims to pro­mote and sup­port na­ture’s way

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - STAFF RE­PORTER

RE­TURN­ING to work af­ter ma­ter­nity leave rates as one of the top rea­sons why moth­ers stop breast­feed­ing their ba­bies long be­fore they should.

The 2017 World Breast­feed­ing Week runs from to­day un­til next week Mon­day and aims to unite all sec­tors of so­ci­ety in the pro­tec­tion, pro­mo­tion and sup­port of breast­feed­ing.

The cam­paign, co-or­di­nated by the World Al­liance for Breast­feed­ing Ac­tion (Waba), iden­ti­fies four crit­i­cal fo­cus ar­eas, one of which is women’s pro­duc­tiv­ity and work.

Work­ing South African moth­ers are en­ti­tled to a min­i­mum of four con­sec­u­tive months of ma­ter­nity leave. Many take at least one month of that leave prior to the birth, and then re­turn to work when their in­fants are around three months old.

How­ever, ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing of an in­fant from birth to six months is what is rec­om­mended as op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO). There­fore, the only way that work­ing new moth­ers can meet th­ese im­por­tant health stan­dards is if they can breast­feed or ex­press breast milk for some months at their work­places.

The ben­e­fits of cre­at­ing work­places that are friendly to nurs­ing mums go be­yond just the phys­i­cal wel­fare of our new gen­er­a­tions.

Cath Day, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian and spokesper­son for Adsa (the As­so­ci­a­tion for Di­etet­ics in South Africa), said there was a vast body of sci­en­tific re­search that showed that breast­feed­ing, as ex­clu­sive nu­tri­tion in the first six months and then as a sup­ple­men­tary food for two years and be­yond, also pro­tects and ben­e­fits the phys­i­cal health of the mother; while im­pact­ing pos­i­tively on her emo­tional well-be­ing as she forms the es­sen­tial bond with her new child.

“It is clearly in the in­ter­ests of the em­ploy­ers of child-bear­ing women to pro­tect, pro­mote and sup­port them dur­ing the times when they are breast­feed­ing be­cause com­pa­nies need their em­ploy­ees to be healthy and op­ti­mally pro­duc­tive.”

Ac­cord­ing to ASDA, busi­nesses must for­malise their sup­port of breast­feed­ing in their poli­cies, stan­dards and prac­tices of their em­ployee well­ness pro­grammes.

So what can busi­nesses do prac­ti­cally to pro­tect and sup­port the nurs­ing mums on their work­force?

Up­hold the Law – Cor­po­rates must recog­nise and fa­cil­i­tate the le­gal rights of SA breast­feed­ing moth­ers en­shrined in the Ba­sic Con­di­tions of Em­ploy­ment Act. Up un­til their ba­bies are six months old, work­ing mums are en­ti­tled to two paid 30-minute breaks ev­ery work day for breast­feed­ing or ex­press­ing milk.

Know and pro­mote the ben­e­fits of breast­feed­ing

“It helps to have em­ploy­ers who are knowl­edge­able about why breast­feed­ing is so im­por­tant and a com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing, sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing breast­feed­ing in the work­place,” says Day.

“As part of the em­ployee well­ness pro­gramme, reg­is­tered di­eti­tians can be en­gaged to make pre­sen­ta­tions to all staff on the ad­van­tages of a breast­feed­ing-friendly work en­vi­ron­ment and how to make it hap­pen in your com­pany. The straight­for­ward facts and the inar­guable science go a long way to re­duc­ing the dis­com­forts and stig­mas peo­ple might at­tach to breast­feed­ing.”

Pro­vide the place

Nowa­days it is widely re­garded as com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for breast­feed­ing mums to have to lock them­selves in a pub­lic toi­let, or their car, to breast­feed or ex­press milk at work be­cause they have nowhere else to go. Many com­pa­nies re­alise that a breast­feed­ing-friendly work­place means pro­vid­ing a se­cure and com­fort­able space for work­ing mums to spend their 30-minute breast­feed­ing breaks. Prefer­ably, this pri­vate room should have a door that locks, com­fort­able seat­ing, plug points for breast pumps and a re­frig­er­a­tor for the safe stor­age of breast milk.

Be flex­i­ble and adapt­able

Part-time, flexi-time or tem­po­rary work-from-home plans can be very ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions for breast­feed­ing mums, and should es­pe­cially be em­ployed by com­pa­nies who pro­vide no proper fa­cil­i­ties for the le­gal breast­feed­ing breaks in their work­place.

Of­fer child-care fa­cil­i­ties

A num­ber of pro­gres­sive com­pa­nies with a clear fo­cus on em­ployee en­gage­ment pro­vide work­place child care fa­cil­i­ties for the ba­bies and small chil­dren of their em­ploy­ees.

Zelda Ack­er­man from Adsa, whose ar­eas of ex­per­tise in­clude baby and child feed­ing, urges new work­ing mums to know their rights and to get the sup­port they need from their bosses and col­leagues so go­ing back to work doesn’t be­come a bar­rier to con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing of their in­fant.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant for South Africa as a coun­try to trans­form to a cul­ture of be­ing breast­feed­ing-friendly in ev­ery en­vi­ron­ment,” she says. “We have to con­sider the po­ten­tial health bur­dens of be­ing a coun­try with ex­cep­tion­ally low rates of breast­feed­ing, and turn this trend around.”

Ack­er­man’s top tips for breast­feed­ing mums re­turn­ing to work:

Be­fore your re­turn to work, give your­self enough time to get to grips with find­ing the pump that works best for you and reg­u­larly ex­press­ing milk – and give your baby enough time to get used to bot­tle-fed breast milk. Time and prac­tice will help you both to es­tab­lish this as a stress-free rou­tine be­fore the big change up ahead.

Build up a stock of breast milk at home ahead of time, – it can be re­frig­er­ated and frozen. Stored breast milk should al­ways be dated, and you re­tain more nu­tri­tional qual­ity if you re­frig­er­ate it im­me­di­ately af­ter you have ex­pressed.

On your re­turn from ma­ter­nity leave to work, have straight­for­ward con­ver­sa­tions with your bosses and/or team mem­bers so that they are clear about your breast­feed­ing goals and needs. Be clear about your le­gal right to two, paid 30 minute breast­feed­ing breaks each work­ing day, and es­tab­lish with them how this is go­ing to work best for you and what ac­com­mo­da­tions you will need.

If you en­counter re­sis­tance or lack of sup­port in your work­place, get help rather than give up breast­feed­ing. Other work­ing moth­ers in your work­place and HR per­son­nel may help to raise aware­ness of the im­por­tance of your con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing.

You can re­duce dis­com­fort from en­gorge­ment and pace your two breast­feed­ing breaks op­ti­mally at work. You ar­range your work­day morn­ings so that you give your baby a good feed that ends just be­fore you leave for work; and then breast­feed your baby again as soon as you get home. Co-or­di­nate this well with your baby’s care­giver so that they don’t bot­tle-feed just be­fore you get home. If you are breast­feed­ing a baby older than six months, make sure your care­giver doesn’t pro­vide late af­ter­noon snacks so that your child is ready for a good breast­feed when you get home from work.

Be pa­tient and re­silient. Our mod­ern world doesn’t make breast­feed­ing easy, nat­u­ral and stress-free. But it’s as im­por­tant as it has ever been to both you and your baby. The science is clear, the more you can; the bet­ter for you, your baby and our so­ci­ety at large.

Get to grips with find­ing the pump that works best for you

PIC­TURE: PRNEWSFOTO

BREAST IS BEST: Ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing of an in­fant from birth to six months is what is rec­om­mended as op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion.

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