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 www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org