Archive | World Breastfeeding Week 2015

#WBW2015: PAID Maternity Leave: A Cornerstone in Supporting Women’s Rights


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 workthe fundamental three pillars of maternity protection; shorter term workplace solutions that support working women throughout breastfeeding; and worldwide examples of paid maternity leave in action (this post).

Women need many things to achieve adequate maternity protection in the workplace and enable them to balance the needs of family and work life. (For more on what is needed for family- and breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, see this Lactation Matters post.) Many of these conditions, including the maternity rights of women, are recognized in a series of international conventions, treatises, and declarations. These include:

Nearly all of these documents stress the need for an exclusive and longer-term breastfeeding relationship between mother and child, a relationship more easily initiated and sustained during a period of postnatal leave from employment. For many women, the prospect of leaving the workforce for even a short period of time after the birth of a child seems impossible due to loss of income and, in some cases, the unwillingness of an employer to offer even unpaid leave in a nation without laws mandating it.

It is clear that mothers and babies benefit from maternity leave and that legislating paid maternity leave would make access more readily available to the families that most need it. But it isn’t just mothers that benefit. Everyone benefits from measures protecting maternity at the workplace!

  • Mothers and babies are healthier, happier, more rested, and less stressed, resulting in improved long- and short-term health.
  • The entire family benefits from the protection a woman receives in job security, cash, and medical benefits, and peace of mind to be with her newborn and to recuperate.
  • Fathers and partners benefit from being equal partners in parenting, and sharing parental and paternity leaves.
  • Babies are sick less often, so both families and nations save on healthcare costs, with lower morbidity and mortality rates.
  • Employers benefit from having a more contented and productive workforce due to less employee absenteeism, increased loyalty, and less staff turnover.
  • States become more egalitarian and enhance human resource, wealth, and societal well-being by protecting women workers and facilitating maternity rights!

maternity-leave-mapFew countries globally have six or more months paid maternity leave. In 2008, Brazil extended its maternity leave from 120 days to six months for all public sector employees (except for some municipalities). In November 2014, Myanmar passed legislation for six months maternity leave with pay as did Vietnam and Bangladesh.

In many countries the scope for paid maternity leave is limited to certain groups of women and often excludes those most in need.

Want to take action for World Breastfeeding Week? You can galvanize action to increase the scope of maternity leave and/or advocate for additional forms like parental and paternity leaves.

Some countries, like Sweden, are moving towards parental leave to address gender equality issues and encourage greater balance in sharing parenting time. This move, however, should not shorten breastfeeding or take health protection away from pregnant and breastfeeding women.

In Australia, a national scheme for Paid Parental Leave was introduced in 2011 funded from general taxation and covers the minimum wage for 18 weeks. Unlike earlier, when 12 months leave was unpaid and only 12 weeks was paid by the employer to public service or professional women, the new scheme has wide eligibility and includes the self-employed, casual workers, etc. and all mothers employed for more than a week in the year before birth. Paid paternity leave of one week is also provided. The scheme has been successful in increasing breastfeeding duration at 12 months, benefited employers as women returned to work earlier than otherwise, and benefited mothers’ mental health by longer leave.

In Venezuela in 2012, the new Labor Law for Workers established postnatal leave of 20 weeks, adding six weeks prenatal leave, equivalent to six and a half months of prenatal and postnatal paid leave. In addition, the father receives 14 days postnatal leave and 21 days for multiple births in order to support the mother. The Law also requires every employer to have a center for early childhood education and a nursery room, and provides for two 30-minute breastfeeding breaks, if there is a lactation room in the worksite, one and a half hours, twice a day, if there is none!

The Philippines passed a law in 2009 titled Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, co-authored by a breastfeeding mother. It advocates for 45 minutes paid breastfeeding breaks for working women at the workplace and the establishment of breastfeeding stations. Companies observing the law are privileged through tax deductions.

While paid maternity leave is a NECESSARY condition for women to breastfeed optimally, it is not a sufficient condition. Research found that in addition to the provision of paid maternity leave, women need information and support during antenatal and postnatal period to address factors at individual, family and workplace levels. But guaranteeing all women elongated, paid maternity leave may be the single biggest step toward securing the rights of women in the workplace.

Want to learn more? These posts excerpt information found in the World Breastfeeding Week 2015 Action Folder, which is available for download here.

Photo credit: WABA, Vanessa A. Simmons

#WBW2015: Workplace Solutions To Support Women In Combining Breastfeeding and Paid Employment


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 workthe 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.

Photo credit: WABA, Jaime Enrique Rodriquez Navarrete

#WBW2015: Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week With FREE JHL Access on Breastfeeding and Work

Free JHL Header

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!” 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.

As a part of the celebration, the Journal of Human Lactation is making available 10 articles on balancing breastfeeding in the workplace — free through September 1, 2015!

Facilitating Working Mothers’ Ability to Breastfeed
Global Trends in Guaranteeing Breastfeeding Breaks at Work, 1995-2014

Policies Aren’t Enough: The Importance of Interpersonal Communication about Workplace Breastfeeding Support

“Frustrated,” “Depressed,” and “Devastated” Pediatric Trainees: US Academic Medical Centers Fail to Provide Adequate Workplace Breastfeeding Support

Overcoming Workplace Barriers: A Focus Group Study Exploring African American Mothers’ Needs for Workplace Breastfeeding Support

Workplace Lactation Support by New Jersey Employers following US Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law

Using a Wellness Program to Promote a Culture of Breastfeeding in the Workplace
Oregon Health & Science University’s Experience

Working Mothers of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Offices: Lessons and Experiences to Protect, Promote, and Support Breastfeeding

In the United States, a Mother’s Plans for Infant Feeding Are Associated with Her Plans for Employment

The Impact of Prenatal Employment on Breastfeeding Intentions and Breastfeeding Status at 1 Week Postpartum

How US Mothers Store and Handle Their Expressed Breast Milk

Journal of Human Lactation (JHL) is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal publishing original research, insights in practice and policy, commentaries, and case reports relating to research and practice in human lactation and breastfeeding. JHL is relevant to lactation professionals in clinical practice, public health, research, and a broad range of fields related to the trans-disciplinary field of human lactation.


#WBW2015: What Women Need for Maternity Protection



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 (this post); upcoming, shorter term workplace solutions that support working women throughout breastfeeding; and worldwide examples of paid maternity leave in action.

Women’s work spaces are diverse—formal and informal locations; full-time, half-time, and temporary; and office work to service jobs to manual and agricultural labor. With so much diversity in the daily work lives of women, how can employers and communities provide an effective framework for Family-/Breastfeeding-Friendly workplaces?

World Breastfeeding Week encourages embracing the needs of working women by highlighting three key pillars of maternity protection: time, space, and support.


  • Six months paid maternity leave postnatally to support exclusive breastfeeding, and adequate paid leave prenatally. Where leave is shorter, women need means to extend their leave period so that they can be with their babies, combining fully paid, unpaid, or some other form of leave.
  • Additional paid leave for mothers of preterm or other vulnerable infants who may need extra time for special care and to express and provide life-saving human milk for their babies.
  • One or more paid breastfeeding breaks or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed her child.
  • Flexible work hours to breastfeed or to express breastmilk, such as part-time work schedules, longer lunch and other breaks, job sharing, or any such alternatives.


  • Infant and child-care at or near the workplace and transportation for mothers to be with their babies. For rural work sites and seasonal work, women could use mobile childcare units or shared childcare and wet-nursing arrangements, according to accepted cultural practices.
  • Private facilities for expressing and storing milk. It can be a breastfeeding room or any safe space at or near the work site.
  • A clean work environment, safe from hazardous waste and chemicals.


  • Information about national maternity laws and benefits, as well as maternity provisions provided at their workplace or sector-wide, which may be better than national laws and practices.
  • Support from employers, management, superiors and coworkers in terms of positive attitudes towards pregnancy, motherhood, and breastfeeding in public.
  • Information about women’s health during pregnancy and lactation in order to be better able to combine employment with breastfeeding and childcare needs.
  • Support from worker’s or trade unions, either from their own work sector or the larger national unions.
  • Job security and non-discrimination on the grounds of maternity and breastfeeding.

Differences in the work and workplaces of women need not stymie efforts to promote breastfeeding-friendly practices in places of employment. Finding ways to address these primary themes in any work environment serves to greatly advance the experiences of women performing productive and reproductive work and encourage full and healthy family lives.

Want to learn more? These posts excerpt information found in the World Breastfeeding Week 2015 Action Folder, which is available for download here.

Photo credit: WABA, Monaliza Oliveira da Palma

#WBW2015: Protecting ALL Women in ALL Types of Work

6In 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 (this post), the fundamental three pillars of maternity protection, shorter term workplace solutions that support working women throughout breastfeeding, and worldwide examples of paid maternity leave in action.

Women’s work and women’s workplaces can vary immensely. Broadly defined, the work of women can take the form of paid employment, self-employment, and seasonal and contract work, as well as unpaid home and care work. The sheer diversity of women’s occupations make the task of indicating needed maternity protections daunting, but labor can be seen as being part of one of two main types: the formal/organized sector or the informal/unorganized sector.

The Formal/Organized Sector
The formal sector encompasses women workers and workplaces commonly thought of in regard to employment. This work is generally paid, full- or part-time, and likely involves a place of employment other than the home. Examples of work that falls within this sector are office or clerical positions, retail, professional healthcare, and public service.

We often think of maternity protections mainly in terms of maternity leave, but it is much more than that. True maternity protection includes seven key areas:

  1. scope
  2. maternity leave
  3. maternity/cash benefits
  4. health protection
  5. job protection and nondiscrimination
  6. breastfeeding breaks
  7. breastfeeding facilities

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in 2012, less than one-third of countries’ national legislation satisfies even two of the seven provisions of ILO Convention No.183. These include the length of maternity leave, paid benefits, and payment schemes. Regarding length of leave, the majority of countries (85%) provide 12 weeks or more, in line with ILO Conventions No.3 and No.103, but only 53% of these countries provide more than 14 weeks, as stipulated in ILO Convention No. 183. Less than 20 countries provide 6 months or more postnatally (immediately after birth), which is important for exclusive breastfeeding. (For more on maternity leave, see this Lactation Matters post.)

Legalized breastfeeding breaks fare better, with 122 out of 182 countries having such a provision, but fewer countries have paid breaks (114 out of 182). Even taking legal breaks is a challenge and depends on effective enforcement, the working environment, and staff attitudes. Globally, this provision has progressed modestly since 1995, with only 15 more countries providing guaranteed breaks by 2015 .

The Informal/Unorganized Sector
Most global and national responses to maternity protection are policy based through maternity protection laws and practices. However, the majority of women needing such support work outside the formal work environment where such policies do not cover them. The home front is an especially challenging domain. Women do huge amounts of work but often face gender discrimination, violence, and/or abuse. This makes it doubly difficult for women to successfully integrate productive and reproductive work without cost to their own health and well-being.

The range of women working in vulnerable situations includes domestic workers, migrant workers (who also suffer from human trafficking), women in agriculture, and displaced people in conflict situations. In the world’s poorest regions, over 50% of the women work in vulnerable employment, characterized by low pay, long hours of work, and informal working arrangements.

Interestingly, there have always been women and communities that have found resourceful ways to support women who work and breastfeed in these informal settings. For example, women in many markets in Latin America and the Caribbean have created support networks to look after their children through informal care systems. Women in migrant and non-legal situations support each other to care for children left in their home country, and to ensure communication and solidarity mechanisms.

In the Philippines, the Alliance of Leaders of Workers in the Informal Economy/Sector (ALLWIES), representing about 700,000 vendors, sellers, transport drivers, waste pickers, etc. have organized lactation stations at their work sites following Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Training in 2014, using ARUGAAN’s Peer Counseling manual.
The group, PARE, who are garbage scavengers, was set up in Quezon City with the collaboration of UNICEF, ILO, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the province of Naga City, Camarines Sur, NAMASFED, a federation of vendors and sellers in the public market, set up a lactation room where people can avail themselves of the breastfeeding counseling and facility. It is run by the vendors themselves, who are also now involved in lawmaking to protect breastfeeding rights for workers through local ordinance.

There are also examples where governments have extended maternity protection laws to cover certain vulnerable populations, such as in Costa Rica, where all women, including migrants and those working in the informal sector, have access to health services.

With the increasing feminization of labor, countries need to strengthen maternity protection, especially for women working in the informal sector, and provide support services if rates of optimal infant and young child feeding are to increase. It is therefore urgent that breastfeeding advocates, together with women’s health, gender and rights advocates, trade unionists, and others seek collaborative ways to respond. Working with men, youth, and men’s groups is also important in order to sensitize men so as to increase their awareness and active involvement in supporting women, in fathering, and fatherhood. This will also help to build greater gender equality at the home, in the workplace, and in public spaces.

Whether a woman is working in the formal, informal, or home setting, it is necessary that she be empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed. It may be easier for women to claim their maternity entitlements in more formal work settings. However, in less formal work and home settings, women need to know about their rights to reproductive health, food, and safety. Any approach that supports women to combine employment and unpaid work with reproductive work must do so from an empowerment approach, so that women do not feel they are the recipients of charity. Maternity rights are the rights of all women and need to be supported, facilitated, and upheld as such.

What can you do to support women and families in both sectors gain the maternity protections they need?

  • Share your experiences as inspiration for other women.
  • Find out about your maternity entitlements and general rights to health, safety, work, and livelihood.
  • Join a support group that offers help with motherhood, childcare, and breastfeeding.
  • Forge partnerships with young people and youth groups to support young mothers to breastfeed and care for their children.
  • As fathers or partners, get information on breastfeeding prenatally, and find out how you can better support your wife/partner in breastfeeding.
  • Look for gender inequalities at home and give proactive support, like helping with household chores.
  • Introduce decent work and childcare policies and practices that address marginalized women and those displaced by wars, poverty, and environmental degradation.
  • Restore and/or build breastfeeding support measures for migrant and refugee women, where family or communal support systems are broken.
  • Partner with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on their maternity protection campaign.

Want to learn more? These posts excerpt information found in the World Breastfeeding Week 2015 Action Folder, which is available for download here.

Photo credit: WABA, Arati Banset

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