According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) mothers are supposed to breastfeed their children for six mothers. Most mothers adhere to this, and while it is no problem in the first three months when they are on maternity leave, it can be tough to do when you go back to work.
In an interview with Afromum, Mrs. Ivy Wacera –Kimani says that she would have to make a mad dash from her place of work to her home to feed her son whenever she was on any break. ‘’ You see, I did not own a refrigerator, so I did not have anywhere to store my milk, ’’explained Wacera. This arrangement was not foolproof because there were times she returned to work late than the expected time because of issues such as traffic jams.
Personally, I did not have much milk when I was breastfeeding my daughter, so I never thought of carrying breast pads with me to a conference, and because she had not breastfed for hours, the milk became too much and leaked to my dress. Well, I was a first-time mother so didn’t think it would leak and that was a big mistake.
It was only after someone pointed out that my dress was all messed up that I started running to my hotel room, but I was so full of regret that the surplus milk would not get to my daughter. If storage services for lactating mothers were available in conference facilities, I could have kept the milk I had to express onto the sink of the bathroom. The sadness of that moment made me forget the embarrassment of walking around with rings on my blouse.
Muranga County women representative Hon Sabina Chege has faced such incidents when she was in parliament and could not take time to feed her child. It did not help matters any that the offices of the building had glass walls, and this means that she could not breastfeed her child because of lack of privacy. Her car became her refuge, and even that was difficult, and we all know how uncomfortable that can get.
“Breastfeeding is the first preventive health measure that can be given to a child at birth and it also enhances mother-infant relationship. It is nature’s first immunization, enabling the infant to fight potential serious infection and it contains growth factors that enhance the maturation of an infant’s organ systems,” said Chege in the bill.
There have been previous attempts to have breastfeeding centers in every place of business with the first one being a bill tabled by Rachel Nyamai, Kitui South MP. Known as the Health Bill 2015 however, did not see the light of day despite its good intentions. The previous Parliament did not succeed with the matter as well because business entities threatened to stop having women employees if they were forced to provide breastfeeding facilities for them.
Another attempt to change the status quo was when journalist Grayce Kerongo petitioned the Senate to make every county create a breastfeeding center for breastfeeding matters. The Senate is still handling the matter. Last year, the government also launched a human resource policy that would see public institutions set up day-care facilities for employees. The facilities would also entail well-equipped lactating rooms as well.
Hon Sabina Chege says that her bill is anchored on international treaties that the government signed and here are a few facts about the bill that we hope will sail through.
“Kenya is a signatory to treaties that provide for the right of an infant to exclusive breastfeeding for six months. The government should, therefore, promote and encourage breastfeeding and provide the specific measures that would present opportunities for working mothers to continue expressing their milk and breastfeeding their infant or young child,” said Chege.
“Furthermore, the practice of breastfeeding may save the country’s valuable foreign exchange that may otherwise be used for milk importation,” said added.
- The bill requires the government and private companies to provide a nursing room for mothers, complete with baby changing facilities.
- The breastfeeding stations should also be equipped with breast pumps and fridge for expressing milk and storage respectively.
- The employers should also provide snacks and trained nannies for the mothers who are either breastfeeding their babies or expressing milk.
- Public facilities such as restaurants that can accommodate 30 persons will also have baby changing facilities.
- All employers will be expected to allow their employees at least 40 minutes to breastfeed their babies after every four hours.
- There should also be baby changing tables as they are cleaner than other surfaces normally offered for changing babies.
- Anyone found breaching the changing room rule risks a one-year jail term or Ksh 500,000 fine or both.
- A breastfeeding mother shall only use the Breastfeeding lactation place during working hours for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
- The enactment of this Bill may occasion additional expenditure of public funds to be provided through the estimates.
- A person who is accompanied by a baby in public may use any baby changing facility within reasonable distance for the purposes of cleaning and changing the baby.
In 2015, the Ugandan parliament set up a lactating place for women in parliament and the Kenyan government is going to have to play catch up in this matter.