Aug 01, 2013

    Bosses, help breastfeeding mothers

    AS WE celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, which starts today, we call on all employers for their strong support in creating a workplace that is friendly to breastfeeding mothers.

    Returning to work should not be a barrier to mothers who wish to continue to breastfeed their children.

    In April, the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC's) U Family conducted a poll of 231 married women who had returned to work after their maternity leave and had a child who was three or younger.

    It was found that close to 50 per cent of respondents stopped breastfeeding by the baby's sixth month. This is despite the World Health Organisation's recommendation that mothers should provide exclusive breastfeeding to babies up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding accompanied with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

    Key reasons why mothers stopped providing breast milk after they returned to work include a lack of time and flexibility to express milk at the workplace; a lack of space at the workplace to do so; and lack of support from employers and co-workers.

    Accommodating mothers' breastfeeding needs is not complicated. What they need is time, a private room and understanding employers.

    Employers can play a bigger role in supporting breastfeeding mothers at the workplace by providing accessible and private lactation rooms that are shielded from view and free from intrusion. These mothers should also be granted time to express milk.

    We urge all senior and line managers of companies to take the first step in reviewing some of these needs, and consider putting in place policies that are mother- and baby-friendly.

    Through its Project Liquid Gold programme, U Family will continue to advocate and raise awareness on lactation support at the workplace.

    The writer is director of U Family, an initiative by the NTUC that facilitates networking, dispenses parenting information and holds affordable family activities.