Breastfeeding Week 2023: Taking action to improve working conditions for breastfeeding mothers
Breastfeeding plays a vital role in child health, yet it often goes unnoticed in many societies. Every year, World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) sheds light on this issue.
This year’s theme, ‘Enabling Breastfeeding, Making a Difference for Working Parents,’ focuses on raising awareness and improving maternity protection laws. The National Launch event for WBW 2023 took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 4, 2023.
The event brought together important organizations like the Ministry of Health, trade unions, UNICEF, and the private sector, emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding support in workplaces.
It aimed to strengthen cooperation among various groups to support breastfeeding at work. It highlighted the importance of paid leave and workplace support for breastfeeding, while also encouraging action to improve working conditions and overall support for breastfeeding.
A community group showcased the challenges faced during breastfeeding through songs and role plays. They discussed knowledge gaps, benefits, barriers, and the roles of different stakeholders in promoting effective breastfeeding at work and at home.
Benefits of Breastfeeding & how to give support
Abubukar Bashir, a father, emphasized the role of family support in effective breastfeeding. His personal experience showed that involving the entire family leads to healthier babies.
Lack of support for breastfeeding mothers can lead to workforce losses for companies.
Employer Initiatives. Isuzu East Africa presented a successful case study involving strategies like extended paid maternity and paternity leave, flexible work hours, and breastfeeding facilities. These initiatives positively impacts employee performance and retention.
Exclusive Breastfeeding Matters. A parent’s personal story highlighted the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. Children who were exclusively breastfed showed better health and development compared to those given food substances at an early age.
Educational Efforts. Martha Nyagaya stressed that breastfeeding is vital for child health and not something fathers should do. Breasts are food sources for babies, not sexual objects.
UNICEF’s Shaleen Nilofer highlighted the numerous benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced illness, better growth, cognitive development, and improved workplace performance.
Government’s Commitment. The Ministry of Health outlined comprehensive measures to support working mothers, including lactation rooms, nursing breaks, flexible hours, and collaboration with NGOs and healthcare providers.
Collective Commitment. The event concluded with organizations and individuals pledging to promote breastfeeding and implement policies. Advocacy for a three-month paid maternity leave and support for regulating formula milk were among the commitments made.