In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), Lactation Matters is running a series of posts on this year’s WBW theme, Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!
This week’s series addresses the importance of recognizing and supporting all types of work; the fundamental three pillars of maternity protection; short-term workplace solutions that support working women throughout breastfeeding (this post); and, upcoming, worldwide examples of paid maternity leave in action.
Breastfeeding- and family-friendly workplace legislative changes take time, so shorter-term solutions for supporting working women to breastfeed and care for children should also be pursued. These include strategies to make the workplace a family- or breastfeeding-friendly environment.
Over the past two decades, since the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, many advances in workplace policy and practices are visible around the world. Here are some global successes that should be celebrated!
In Australia, the implementation of the Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Accreditation (BFWA) by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has made great strides with over 150 organizations accredited since the program began. The parliamentary committee, in 2007, recommended that the Australian government provide funding to expand this initiative. One outstanding example is the Royal Australian Air Force, which led the way in 2014 by becoming the first military organization in the world to achieve accreditation as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace.
In El Salvador, CALMA-IBFAN, working in concert with national authorities, developed the Women- and Child-Friendly Working Centers in 2010, which include breastfeeding rooms; training for workers in companies, industries, and commercial settlements in both public and private sectors; and surveillance of the implementation of maternity protection laws. Two hundred inspectors have been trained. The program now has 532 breastfeeding rooms for approximately 15,823 women.
In Peru, Supreme Decree No. 29896 established the implementation of breastfeeding and breastmilk rooms in the public and private sectors to promote and support breastfeeding. They are obligatory for all public or private establishments with 20 or more workers.
In Switzerland, the Swiss Foundation for the Promotion of Breastfeeding provides ample resources on their website for working women, employees, and employers in a number of languages. Numerous other examples of breastfeeding information resources exist, showing a real growth in public information and workplace support via breastfeeding-friendly programs (e.g., USA, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and others).
In Brazil, the breastfeeding support rooms (SALM) are spaces within the workplace for employees to express and store their milk to be transported to homes at the end of the day. These rooms have been growing in number all over the country since their launch in 2010 by the Ministry of Health. A few SALM exist in non-hospital health units open to informal workers of the community as well.
In New Zealand, the Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplaces Program has been set up as a national service to provide information and support to women, employees and employers encouraging the latter to be accredited as Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplaces, similar to the Australian program. The intention is to better serve “industrial and service workers, in particular women in sales, restaurant, hotel, factory, or service occupations [who] have the greatest difficulty in managing breastfeeding and, thus, require greater support from their employers to balance their work and family responsibilities.”
In Colombia, a law by the Council of Bogotá requires family- and children-friendly rooms to be established in communities and enterprises, regardless of the number of women workers.
Feeling inspired by these tales of pro-women practices? Want to help this list of successes grow in your community and in the world? Here are some things YOU can do to help make breastfeeding-friendly changes in your workplace.
As an employee:
- Advocate for a breastfeeding-friendly program within your own workplace. Assume collective responsibility for sustaining it with a supportive work environment.
- Offer breastfeeding support and practical information on managing work and breastfeeding for pregnant women and women going back to work.
- Learn about other family-/breastfeeding-friendly employers and the shared benefits for employer and employees when women are supported to combine paid work with motherhood.
- Campaign for safe and breastfeeding-friendly childcare services that are Code compliant in or near your workplace or home.
As an employer:
- Check out inspiring examples of breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, accreditation processes, and other resources. See the links at the end of this post for a place to start.
- Support part time work arrangements for your breastfeeding staff as breastfeeding could take up to half the work time of a woman.
- Encourage staff to speak with health professionals about strategies on combining work and breastfeeding.
1. The business case for Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Accreditation—New Zealand
2. The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Steps for Creating a Breastfeeding-Friendly Worksite, Employers’ Guide to Working and Breastfeeding
3. General Breastfeeding Support for Employers
Want to learn more? These posts excerpt information found in the World Breastfeeding Week 2015 Action Folder, which is available for download here.