Every career woman who went into motherhood while working an 8-5 job will tell you of their struggle to continue breastfeeding or expressing milk immediately after their maternity leave lapsed. Although most companies feel that 4 months (3 maternity & one annual leave) is more than enough, the recommended age by World Health Organisation for exclusive breastfeeding is 6 months. Unfortunately, many women though willing are unable to continue due to lack of an enabling environment at their places of work.
We had our first born in 2o1o and at the time, I was an IT Manager at a firm in Nairobi. When I got back to work after a 4 month break, I had planned in advance and bought a manual pump which I would use at work over my lunch break and hopefully keep the milk long enough till I got home.
Since I shared an office with others, I could not lock myself in it and the washrooms were too tiny, unhygienic & distracting (too many strange smells) for me to relax and express milk. Luckily, being the I.T manager, I had access to the server room which was always locked and quite cold. I would lock myself in the server room over lunch time, express the milk and because we didn’t have an office fridge then, I’d go to a shop managed by a lady near our office and store the milk in her soft drinks fridge till evening.
I count myself lucky that I was able to find a small room, the time and a place I could get the milk stored. Many career women especially in Africa are not so lucky and many who can afford are forced to resort to baby formula. Those in the lower middle class are forced to wean their 3 month or 4 month old infants on porridge, solids or cow milk as the lack of breastfeeding through out the day (8hrs) for 5 days affects milk production for most women reducing the quantity with time and for others, the breast milk flavor changes due to staying on the breast for too long. A lot of children are not able to stand this new flavor and like in my case, my two girls completely refused to breastfeed within the fifth month.
World Breastfeeding Week 2015 is just round the corner, this year it will be celebrated worldwide from 1st – 7th August. The theme this year is :-
BREASTFEEDING AND WORK, LET’S MAKE IT WORK!
This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
The WBW 2015 theme on working women and breastfeeding revisits the 1993 WBW campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative. Much has been achieved in 22 years of global action supporting women in combining breastfeeding and work, particularly the adoption of the revised ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection with much stronger maternity entitlements, and more country actions on improving national laws and practices. At the workplace level, we have also seen more actions taken to set up breastfeeding or mother-friendly workplaces including awards for breastfeeding-friendly employers, as well as greater mass awareness on working women’s rights to breastfeed.
There is still a lot to be done
With the WBW 2015 campaign, WABA and its partners at global, regional and national levels aim to empower and support ALL women, working in both the formal and informal sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding.
What can you do to mark this week
1. Stay updated on the latest developments and issues in the world of #MaternityProtection and #WomenandWork
2. Be part of our discussions, share your own stories or experiences or share interesting posts you have read using the hashtags #WBW2015 #breastfeeding #WomenandWork
For resources information on the Breastfeeding week, find the toolkit here