As World Breastfeeding Week commemorations come to an end on August 7, the Children’s Institute has called for more support in the workplace.
The Institute, based at the University of Cape Town, has raised concern over the fact that few mothers in South Africa exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life - as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
In a statement they said with only one in four babies exclusively breastfed by the time they are four to five months old, these “low exclusive breastfeeding rates” contributed to the high prevalence of malnutrition, diarrhoea, pneumonia and under-five mortality in South Africa.
They’ve suggested tips for employers to help facilitate exclusive and extended breastfeeding in order to help mothers give their children the best possible start in life:
- Time: Women are entitled to two 30 minute breaks in order to express milk or breastfeed their baby. So create a more flexible work schedule so that women can express milk when they need to. If possible, give mothers options to extend maternity leave, work from home, or work part-time so that they can continue breastfeeding, or provide child care on-site or close to work.
- Space: If possible, set aside a small, private room for breastfeeding. No woman should be expected to express milk or breastfeed in the toilet. This is not a clean and healthy environment in which to prepare baby food. Breastmilk can be refrigerated or stored in a personal cooler.
- Develop a clear policy and guidelines: Take active steps to create a supportive work environment. Develop a clear policy and extend provision of breastfeeding/expressing breaks from six to twelve months to support mothers and infants as they make the transition to solid food.
- Educate staff and management: Educate staff about the policy and the benefits of breastfeeding. Enlist the support of supervisors and co-workers. Inform pregnant women about their rights – to maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks - so that they can plan ahead and continue breastfeeding.