By: LINA NJOROGE
Breastfeeding and work; lets make it workis” is the theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week which is celebrated annually from August 1 to 7.
The years theme seeks to promote a mother-friendly workplace initiative which is in line with the wider motive which is to encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months.
This celebration aims to bring health professionals, breastfeeding supporters and mothers together to support breastfeeding and to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing benefits of breastfeeding for mothers, children and the long term public health for everyone.
Exclusive breastfeeding guards children against diseases such as jaundice, pneumonia, cholera, among others.
This year, the focus is on supporting the working mother and adopting a comprehensive breastfeeding culture at the work place.
Breastfeeding mothers who work at home, such as housewives, or in more informal settings such as markets or farms, also require support from their family and the community around them.
The Ministry of Health Department of Nutrition And Dietetics have come up with some guidelines for all employers to provide time, space and support for breastfeeding mothers in their workplace:
• Time: Provide a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave for mother and two weeks paternity leave for male employees, as stipulated in the Kenyan Employment Act.
• Allowing short breaks for mothers to breastfeed and express breast milk, and review workplace policies to incorporate flex time (such as part-time work schedules, longer lunch breaks, job-sharing) until their babies are at least 2 years old)
• Space: Provide a designated clean, private area for mothers to express milk or breastfeed their babies (including storage facilities to keep milk safe). Providing a supportive environment including appropriate furniture (chair/table) and access to water and soap to clean storage items
• Support: Promote exclusive breastfeeding through workplace sensitisation.
Adopting supportive policies and practices that enable women to successfully return to work (guidance for supervisors, encouraging positive accepting attitudes from other employees, allowing babies in the workplace).