Mother and baby at lunch break. Picture: John Musisi
Mother and baby at lunch break. Picture: John Musisi

Breastfeeding and work: things to know

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Aug 5, 2015

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Cape Town - For many women, returning to work is often a barrier to breastfeeding.

“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 Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson, Catherine Pereira.

Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to 7 . This year's theme is 'Breastfeeding and Work - Let's make it work', addressing one of the challenges and fears that many mother face - what happens when I have to go back to work?


In a press release, ASDA highlights some important issues:


* 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'


* 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 six months!

* 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”.


* It is possible to create a breastfeeding-friendly work environment by having a breastfeeding-friendly room, corner or space in your workplace where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk; and ensuring that there are refrigeration facilities for mothers to store breast milk if they are expressing.

* 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.

* Dietitians are trained to assist mothers with breastfeeding as well as to assist mothers with continued breastfeeding when returning to work and are able to help you calculate how much milk you need to express during the day.

* Ensure you feed your little one by breastfeeding before leaving for work and as soon as you get home. And for babies older than six months, make sure the caregiver doesn't give your little one a big meal/ snack before you get home, a smaller snack will be better as your little one with then happily breastfeed and it may also relieve some engorgement.

* Expressing milk: ensure you know how to hand express and that you have a pump that suits your needs (different pumps are required depending on the number of hours you work i.e. part-time vs. full-time). Also, build up a milk supply before returning to work.

* Expressed breast milk can be stored. All milk should be dated before storing. Storing milk in 60 to 120 ml amounts may reduce waste. Refrigerated milk has more anti-infective properties than frozen milk. Cool fresh milk in the refrigerator before adding it to previously frozen milk. Preferably, human milk should be refrigerated or chilled right after it is expressed.

For information on WBW 2015 visit

IOL, adapted from a press release

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