Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make it Work!

ADSA_Breastfeeding Logo_30July15

Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1-7 August and this year’s theme is ‘Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s make it work!’.

Optimal infant and young child feeding is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘exclusive breastfeeding from birth for the first six months of life and starting from six months of age, feeding safe and appropriate complementary foods, along with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond’

South Africa’s paediatric food-based dietary guidelines state ‘Give only breast milk, and no other foods or liquids, to your baby for the first six months of life’.

“Women from all communities need to be supported to continue to breastfeed when they return to work, and everyone should work together to ensure that breastfeeding mothers receive the support they need”, says ADSA spokesperson, Catherine Pereira. Most women do not receive adequate maternity protection and returning to work is often a barrier to breastfeeding because a mother becomes separated from her baby for long periods of time. Many mothers struggle to balance breastfeeding and paid work, therefore stopping breastfeeding earlier than they should.

Did you know?

  • Breastfeeding mothers in South Africa are protected by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and are legally entitled to two 30-minute breaks per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk if their infants are younger than 6-months!
  • The Act also states that an employee is legally entitled to at least four consecutive months maternity leave, during which time breastfeeding can be established at home.
  • In 2011, the Tshwane Declaration of Support for Breastfeeding in South Africa was signed by the Minister of Health and many other stakeholders. This stated that “the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding requires commitment and action from all stakeholders, including government and legislators, community leaders, traditional leaders and healers, civil society, HCWs and managers, researchers, the private sector, employers, the women’s sector, the media and every citizen”.

How can we ensure that the workplace is breastfeeding- and mother-friendly?

  • Have a breastfeeding-friendly room, corner or space in your workplace where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk.
  • Ensure that there are refrigeration facilities for mothers to store breast milk if they are expressing.
  • Support part-time work arrangements for breastfeeding staff.
  • Make sure that your employees or employers know the legal rights of breastfeeding women.
  • Show a positive attitude towards friends and colleagues that are breastfeeding mothers.
  • If you are a woman who managed to breastfeed when you went back to work, share your experiences as inspiration for other women.
  • Fathers and partners should read up on breastfeeding and how they can support women.
  • Breastfeeding women should form or join support groups, such as La Leche League or contact a lactation consultant.
  • Listen to women’s needs and respect a woman’s decision on infant feeding and offer support for her choice without prejudice.

Do you know why breastfeeding is so important for your baby?

  • Give your baby only breast milk for the first six months; no other food or drink is needed at this age. If a baby is given other food and drink, they will consume less breast milk and receive less nutrition.
  • Babies are protected against infection when they are breastfed. In addition to containing all of the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months, breast milk also contains antibodies that help to protect your baby against illness.

Did you know that a dietitian can assist you with breastfeeding? 

Dietitians are trained to assist mothers with breastfeeding as well as to assist mothers with continued breastfeeding when returning to work. Click here to find a Registered Dietitian in your area visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa’s website.

For information and resources on WBW 2015, including posters, infographics and other documents from around the world, visit

“Improving health through diet therapy” – Meet registered dietitian Astrid Wichmann

This week we chat to Astrid Wichmann, Chief Dietitian at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban.

Astrid completed her BSc Degree in Dietetics at the University of Stellenbosch, followed by one year community service in Barberton. She stayed in the public sector and her interests are mainly in the field of clinical dietetics. To date Astrid has one publication, one husband and one child.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

My plan was to trek up Africa in an old Land Rover and help all the Kwashies. The outcome – I’m based in a clinical setting where I play a role in rehabilitating individuals, with all types of ailments, through nutrition therapy.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

Enjoy most: Playing a role in enhancing recovery of patients and improving health through diet therapy.

Most satisfying: Seeing the twinkle in patient’s eyes when they grasp a concept and are eager to learn more. Seeing a child grow well after diet therapy has been implemented.

What has been your career highlight?

Being given the opportunity to work in a flagship tertiary and quaternary hospital.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

  • Helping individuals attain a goal with limited resources in their poverty stricken setting.
  • Eloquently defending fact against sensationalistic fiction.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

By not going on a diet! (Or should I rather say: I do not see it as a disaster and recover by aiming for optimal nutrition)

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Oh!….I need to speak to you about a diet, I need to lose weight!
  • Don’t look at what I’m eating.
  • You are not supposed to eat that if you’re a dietitian.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Look out for the field of interest the practitioner has and what client base he/she mainly serves. Generally you are likely to benefit more by seeing someone who specialises in the area you need assistance with, than someone who does not have much exposure to such cases e.g. allergies/diabetes/paediatrics/kidney diseases/ infertility etc.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My “last supper” would be: moms roast chicken & potatoes with a mixed salad.

Treat food: ice-cream that contains icicles.