Breastfeeding a newborn is an emotional and exhausting process for new moms. Breastfeeding is equally important in the lives of moms and newborns. It not only supports in the overall growth of the newborn baby, but it also helps new moms in connecting with their newborns. As a manager or supervisor, you play a significant role in an employee’s successful return to work after maternity, including to support breastfeeding mothers. To commemorate World Breastfeeding Week of 2022 that is annually celebrated from August 1 to August 7, here is how your company can take part in this initiative.
Breastfeeding assistance is critical since breastfeeding nourishes and gives the best start in life for all children. Breast milk serves as a baby’s first immunization, protecting him or her from infections and and/or death. Breastfeeding also promotes safe bonding, cognitive development, and lessens the burden of childhood and maternal sickness, cutting health-care expenditures, producing healthier families, and promoting societal development. According to UNICEF, more than 820,000 children under the age of five may be saved, and 20,000 incidences of breast cancer could be avoided, if breastfeeding rates were increased to recommended levels.
According to research, returning to work without the proper support systems might interfere with the best breastfeeding practice. Support for breastfeeding is ultimately crucial for women, society, and the health and development of children. The availability of nursing rooms at the office, paid nursing breaks, and a culture that supports breastfeeding are all low-cost measures that can help with breastfeeding, job productivity, and employee retention. Employers are essential in supporting families and enabling mothers to breastfeed for as long as they see fit.
Workplaces should be in conformity with ILO Maternity Protection Convention 2000 (no. 183) article 9:
Employers are obligated to make sure that women are protected from harm at work. They need to forbid discrimination based on family status, breastfeeding, or pregnancy in the job. Businesses should make sure that workplace discrimination is being monitored. Employers must, at the very least, abide with any applicable laws on maternity leave and breastfeeding support in the workplace. In order to encourage and support exclusive breastfeeding, UNICEF that at least 18 weeks of paid maternity, paternity, and parental leave be granted to both parents following the birth of the child.
Workplace nursing areas must have enough room and seclusion, as well as accessibility, furniture, supplies, lighting, ventilation, and hygienic conditions. The nursing area must to have access to handwashing sinks and other necessities including drinking water, liquid soap dispensers, hand sanitizers, surface cleaners, and paper towels. Additionally, water should be automatically, or hands-free, dispensed from the taps.
It is essential to have a cold storage system accessible to keep breast milk fresh until the mother removes it and gives it to the baby; ideally, this system should be a freezer or refrigerator designated just for the nursing area. For it to be sanitary, this equipment needs to be at least 20 centimeters from the ground. There must be a comfortable chair in the room, preferably an armchair with adjustable height and decent back support rather than a sofa.
A nursing room should be physically separated from the bathrooms, with easy access, and close to the workstation. It must also provide privacy, thus entrances must be adequately closed and amenities must be built so that mothers using the room are not visible from the outside.
During COVID-19, when companies must give guidance and training on occupational safety, health measures, and hygiene practices, additional hygiene measures should be considered.
How else can your company contribute, besides setting up an appropriate nursing room? Ensure that there is a supportive atmosphere for breastfeeding at work, with the help of senior management. Develop employee compassion about the value of breastfeeding via instruction and informational policy. Help moms in continuing to breastfeed by providing choices including flexible hours, part-time employment, or working from home.
Employers should provide managers with training on the benefits of breastfeeding, such as increased staff retention, lower turnover costs, health benefits for both the child and the mother, and fewer absence due to a child’s sickness. Business leaders and their networks, in collaboration with governments and civil society organizations, should increase awareness of the advantages of breastfeeding and family-friendly policies for children’s health and development. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!