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World Breastfeeding Week is coming August 1-7 2015. The theme this year is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!”
When I had my first baby one of my biggest fears related to breastfeeding was how I was going to breastfeed and return to work so soon. I had six weeks of maternity leave, which was considered very generous for a small company with less than 50 employees. The truth is that six weeks is barely enough time for breastfeeding to be established and then be apart from your baby. And, the kicker for me? I worked from home! So I was lucky, I could still take a break and feed my baby. I did pump to feed as well since sometimes I was too busy to take breaks when my baby needed to eat.
Even though I was at home I found it very stressful. I was busy and expected to be at my desk, with only certain break times which did not always line up with my baby’s schedule. I worked long overnight hours at times when my 2 month old baby would prefer to be cluster feeding. I can only imagine how hard and stressful it can be for a mother returning to work outside the home weeks after the birth of her baby, while also pumping and making breastfeeding a priority. I personally know women who found the obstacles involved with pumping once back to work too much to deal with and turned to formula instead. So many women start off breastfeeding with wonderful goals but run into obstacles and end up supplementing or replacing breastfeeding all together.
Until recently working mothers were not protected in their right to pump breastmilk at work. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act that has changed and employers must provide time and space for new mothers to express milk for their babies until the child turns one year old. The pumping space should be clean and private, and must not be a bathroom. Mothers must be given a reasonable amount of time to pump.
Despite the law, not all companies willingly comply, and companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the law if they can prove it would cause a hardship.
While progress is being made much more needs to be done. Whether a women is working from home, or out of the home, she needs to feel empowered to claim her right to breastfeed.
Letting women balance work and family benefits all of society .
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has outlined the goals for World Breastfeeding Week 2015
1) Galvanise multi-dimensional support from all sectors to enable women everywhere to work and breastfeed safely and adequately.
2) Promote actions by employers to become Family/Parent/Baby and Mother-Friendly, and to actively facilitate and support employed women to continue breastfeeding their children.
3) Inform people about the latest in global Maternity Protection entitlements, and raise awareness of the need to strengthen related national legislation and implementation.
4) Strengthen, facilitate and showcase supportive practices that enable women working in the informal sector to breastfeed.
5) Engage with target groups e.g. Trade Unions, Workers Rights Organisations, Human Rights agencies, Women’s, Occupational Health, and Youth groups, to protect the breastfeeding rights of women in the workplace.
As we go through World Breastfeeding Week I will be publishing a few articles discussing world wide breastfeeding goals and reasons that making breastfeeding work benefits everyone.
Here is a great infographic from the World Health Organization on breastfeeding goals
Please share with me in the comments. How was your maternity leave and breastfeeding experience? Did you feel you had the support to make breastfeeding and work, work for you?