Breasting Feeding zones in every county soon to be a pleasant reality to Kenyan mothers

The newly opened Nestle breastfeeding center (image courtesy of broccolicrazy.wordpress.com)

For most of us, it starts or used to start as a kind of tightening on the sides of our breasts, and within a short time they would be full of milk. The pain that would accompany it was too much that it was a dreaded experience. You would be perennially found on the corridors of your workplace or business place running to express the extra milk in your chest that did not have anyone to suckle.

Indeed our founder Njeri Wangari has told the story of how she would repurpose the server room as an express station as we marked World breastfeeding week in 2015.

You are lucky if you are the type of women who can go through a whole day without accumulating more milk than you know what to do with in your chest. You are also lucky if it does not leak and spoil your dress ahead of an important presentation! In most cases, the breast pads may stop them from leaking but in other instances the disaster just happens before your very eyes.

A mother Breast Feeding
A mother Breast Feeding (image courtesy)

As you arm yourself with an expressing machine or as you mentally prepare yourself to express manually, your thoughts are immediately taken back to your child at home who would have greatly benefitted from the milk. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Studies have shown that breastfed children have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections and have diarrhoea less often. Infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to need fewer health care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations resulting in a lower total medical care cost compared to never-breastfed infants. You do a mental calculation and regret the fact that you do not have ways of refrigerating your milk or if you can, there is just no more space to keep more milk.

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You also remember that there is not much you can do about it and   you quietly go back to work and repeat the process after some hours. All these is however, are set to be a thing of the past as plans are in motion to ensure that every county in the country has a breast feeding zone where mothers can go and feed their babies and go back to their jobs or businesses.

In a 2015 survey by Philips Africa, 69% of women surveyed knew the importance of expressing breast milk but were unable to breastfeed directly, the biggest barriers for new moms wanting to express included lack of space to express comfortably, access to technology like breast pumps, cooling and sterilization equipment and advice and coaching on the correct techniques to breastfeed enabling comfort and ease for both infant and mother.

Working mothers in Kenya might just have their way if a recent petition goes through on having designated areas for breastfeeding

Photo courtesy of tesco-baby .com

The ball to on this noble initiative was set rolling when Entertainment journalist Grayce Kerongo from The Star and a friend Chrispinus Wekesa Simiyu sent a petition to the Senate Labour committee asking if each county could set aside designated area for breastfeeding mothers, just as with smoking zones.

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“Being young parents with children below the ages of two years, we have experienced the challenges that come with breastfeeding of children. Most times, mothers have to stop breastfeeding their children early so as to be able to go back to work – market or businesses – to make money for the family. This adversely affects the development of a child,” read part of the petition.

The petition also called for the stations to be equipped with necessary facilities such as electric outlets for breasts pumps, refrigerators and appropriate cooling facilities within the office premises.

“The centers will be a creation of employment since we can have the disabled women who apply to be stationed in there to oversee the operations and a number of nannies to take care of the children and the mothers go back to eking a living, “read part of the petition.

It is expected that business people will also be able to cash in on the initiative as they will be able to retail things like diapers, sanitary towels, soap, baby food or powdered milk etc. The centers will also employ security guards and professional child care personnel

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On Thursday last week,  the two also enlightened the senate that mothers were having a hard time breastfeeding their babies in private and that often offended other people like passengers when they had to change their babies. Their efforts to address the issue with other relevant bodies had been frustrated, making them turn to the senaté for help.

The senate Labour committee chaired by Stewart Madzayo, supported the petition for designated for breast feeding mothers to be processed into law

The committee will seek the Senate’s approval to start the process of coming with a legislation that will go a long way in addressing challenges that women have been facing.

Describing the petition as progressive, Senator  Martha Wangari  said the committee will invite the Health ministry and the Council of Governors to discuss how they plan to implement the proposals.

Last year, MPs approved the breastfeeding clause in the Health Bill 2015 that makes it mandatory for employers to provide breastfeeding stations for nursing mothers in the workplace.

The Bill had been sponsored by the National Assembly Health Committee chaired by Rachel Nyamai (Kitui South).

So far, only a handful of companies in Kenya (less than 20) are currently supporting a mother-friendly workplace by adopting best practices in making breastfeeding in the workplace possible

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