Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby and has important health benefits for both the mother and the baby. Breast milk contains optimally balanced nutrition for the growth and development of the baby.
How much Breastfeeding is adequate?
As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.
WHO and UNICEF recommend:
- early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth of the baby
- exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life
- the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at six months together with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond
- Protects infant against gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, ear infections, chest infections
- Reduces risk of allergies and juvenile-onset diabetes
- Reduces the risk of obesity in adulthood
- Protects the mother against premenopausal breast cancer, reduces the risk of bleeding after delivery and aids in uterine involution
- If exclusively breastfeeding, then it has a contraceptive effect
- It is sterile and economically less expensive
Despite knowing all these, a woman returning to work has several challenges and they must be tackled differently.
What should a new Working Mother know?
Women must realize that they have to be determined not to give up breastfeeding when they get back to work and that they can successfully combine breastfeeding with their work.
Support and encouragement to working mothers and raising awareness of breastfeeding are necessary.
A woman can discuss with her employer in advance, maybe in writing also, so that they can together make preparations.
A working woman has several options on this front. She can
- Arrange for childcare close to work, so that she can breastfeed during breaks or before and after work
- Express milk (taking milk from the breast by hand or using a pump) so that someone else can feed the baby while she is at work
- Ask the employer for flexible working hours, arranged around breastfeeding
- Utilize the fact that expressed breast milk can be stored at the room temperature for 6 hrs and in the fridge for 8 hrs in a sterilized container. She must always sterilize the breast pump and the container before and after use
How can employers support Breastfeeding?
Proposals should be made for employers to make workplaces mother-friendly and their help and support to the employed woman to continue breastfeeding are needed. There should be policies for mothers who are returning to work to make it easier for them to breastfeed and to deal with the career demand at the same time.
Employers can have a system to support breastfeeding that includes:
- A break allowance or lactation breaks so that mothers can express milk
- Provision of a clean, warm and private room (not the toilet) for expressing
- A fridge to store expressed milk
- Flexible working hours for breastfeeding mothers
Supporting breastfeeding has business benefits too. These include:
- Reduced absence due to child sickness
- Increased staff morale and loyalty, and a subsequently higher rate of return to work
- Lower recruitment and training costs