Supporting the decision to breastfeed in workplaces can be beneficial to employers and employees as it can translate into less sick days for the mothers.
Dr. Janelle Williams, a member of the National Breastfeeding Committee, told OBSERVER media yesterday that breastfeeding in the workplace may appear inappropriate and unprofessional to some, however, as women make up 40 percent of the workforce globally and 50 percent in countries such as Barbados and the Bahamas there needs to be specific changes to workplace norms, such as the creation of safe spaces and increased break periods for mothers.
The National Breastfeeding Committee has partnered with the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, and the Rotary Club of Antigua Sundown to increase breastfeeding among mothers, particularly during the first six months of a baby’s life.
In Antigua and Barbuda, government statistics show that only 30 percent of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding their six-week-old infants. According to the local advocates, this increases the risk of childhood diseases such as asthma, ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and diabetes and diarrhoea.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial for mothers, said Williams, who is also the Communication Marketing Manager of the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).
“The literature says that breastfeeding without the introduction of other foods within the first month, [is] positively associated to the number of social support or persons within the social support system of a mother.”
The advocate for breastfeeding in the workplace, stressed, “Putting it on the table – breaks, flexible times and expressing of milk in the workplace – when talking about the stress factor [associated with] having to express your milk, you want to be in a place that is comfortable, where you can focus on what you are doing and to be private as well.”
The National Breastfeeding Committee, made up of key professionals mainly from within the health sector, including nurses, nutritionists, and doctors, recently met with several representatives of the public sector to discuss ways to create comfortable work environments for young nursing mothers.