As World Breastfeeding Week begins, United Nations agencies are stressing the urgent need for better workplace support for breastfeeding mothers. In the last decade, the practice of exclusive breastfeeding has increased, globally, rising by an impressive 10 percentage points, to touch 48 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF).
To achieve the 2030 global target of 70 per cent, these welfare organisations are highlighting the importance of promoting and supporting breastfeeding at workplaces, globally. Supporting women’s return to work is crucial for maintaining breastfeeding rates, with workplaces playing a key role in this effort.
To facilitate breastfeeding, workplaces need to introduce policies that are more family friendly, including paid maternity leave, breaks for breastfeeding and private spaces to nurse babies. Such facilities will not only reduce absenteeism but also ensure that more women are retained at the workplace.
UNICEF and WHO are urging comprehensive support for all working mothers, especially lactating mothers, including those in informal sectors, to enable them to continue breastfeeding while employed. In addition to paid leave for working parents, they also call for increased investments in breastfeeding-support programmes.
It is scientifically proven that breastfeeding is vital for child survival and development. It provides protection against diseases, boosting immune systems and supplying essential nutrients.
UNICEF and WHO recommend initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of the child’s birth and continuing the same exclusively for six months, avoiding other foods or liquids. After six months, complementary foods can be introduced while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or more. However, this can be a challenge for working mothers as they are unable to take time off from work to breastfeed their babies.
This global initiative underscores the significance of workplace breastfeeding support in fostering a healthier future for all.