Kenya: Let All Employers Make It Normal for Mothers to Breastfeed At Work

opinion

The annual World Breastfeeding Week is usually marked on August 1-7.

This week aims at creating awareness on the enormous benefits of breastfeeding to the welfare and health of babies.

This is in addition to a bigger drive for maternal health focused on food security, good nutrition and poverty reduction. This year's theme is "Empower parents, enable breastfeeding".

The World Breastfeeding Week is aimed at encouraging breastfeeding and improving the health of babies. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, Unicef and other organisations.

Despite the great importance of breastfeeding, studies show an increased reduction in the practice among career women. But what is it that hinders many working women from breastfeeding their babies exclusively and beyond one year?

WARM ENVIRONMENT

Of course, busy schedules and workplace dynamics for mothers who aspire to breastfeed may not always be conducive.

The week therefore deepens the awareness on the well-being and health outcomes of breastfeeding and the value of supporting nursing mothers for as long as they wish.

Workplace support for breastfeeding takes different forms. These include providing workplace childcare sites, formulation of policies that support breastfeeding mothers and sensitising all staff on breastfeeding.

Others are providing safe spaces for expressing breastmilk and breastfeeding, different forms of employee services and benefits, providing breast pumps, allowing for flexible hours to breastfeed, return-to-work options and maternity leave extension to up to six months.

CHALLENGES

However, dedicated mothers suffer a myriad challenges while striving to ensure the well-being of their babies.

Some of these barriers include lack of storage for expressed breastmilk and pumps, low support by colleagues and employers and perceived or low breastmilk production or supply.

An organisation that provides a safe environment for breastfeeding stands to harvest numerous benefits. These include boosted female staff morale, increased productivity and minimising disengagement and absenteeism.

Studies indicate that employers who provide and support safe breastfeeding space initiatives find that female staff transition to work easily from maternity leave, show more productivity, are happy and may return to work earlier.

To nurture the future workforce, and for increased productivity, we have to support our breastfeeding colleagues at workplace.

Crucially, all employers should ensure nursing mothers who work for them have easy and comfortable access to breastfeeding facilities and time.

Purity Wanjira, nutritionist and mother wrote from Turkana

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