The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital has opened a dedicated breastfeeding facility for its staff. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town - The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital has opened a dedicated breast-feeding facility for its staff, joining the growing effort to break the stigma around workplace breast-feeding.

Timed to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week this week, the new facility allows staff to breast-feed or express milk in a safe, clean environment.

One of the major stumbling blocks to increasing the number of breast-feeding mothers is the lack of facilities in workplaces. With many businesses still failing to reserve an area for breast-feeding, mothers often choose alternative feeding methods, resulting in babies losing out on the benefits of breast milk.

The chief executive of the hospital, Dr Matodzi Mukosi, believes providing an area for mothers is essential.

“This facility will benefit our staff who are mothers and still dedicate their time to take care of the children in the community," he said.

“It is a testimony to our dedication to creating a conducive environment for breast-feeding in the workplace.”

Negative views around breast-feeding in the workplace and in public are starting to be wiped away, though progress is slow.

Restaurant chain Spur recently spearheaded a campaign encouraging mothers to breast-feed while dining, but such campaigns are few and far between.

Breast-feeding law entitles mothers to two 30-minute breaks a day to breast-feed or express milk, though many mothers are unaware of this.

The rules around this law are flexible, with some moms choosing to join the two breaks together and others taking regular, shorter breaks throughout the day.

Last year it was reported that a third of South African children under six months were exclusively breast-fed.

While this represents a major increase from 20 years ago, the statistics still place the country behind the minimum requirement set by the World Health Assembly, of 50%, and the average in East and Southern Africa, 56%, suggesting that much more needs to be done to support new mothers.

Knowledge of the advantages of breastfeeding continues spreading to new mothers, and with recent research suggesting HIV-positive mothers can breast-feed their children with limited risks, there is optimism that the number of mothers who regularly nurse their babies will continue to rise.

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Cape Argus