“Women from all communities need to be supported to continue to breastfeed when they return to work, and everyone should work together to ensure that breastfeeding mothers receive the support they need”, says ADSA spokesperson, Catherine Pereira.

Most women do not receive adequate maternity protection and returning to work is often a barrier to breastfeeding, because a mother becomes separated from her baby for long periods of time. Many mothers struggle to balance breastfeeding and paid work, and stop breastfeeding earlier than they should.

Did you know?

1. Exclusive breastfeeding

Optimal infant and young child feeding is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘exclusive breastfeeding from birth for the first six months of life, and, starting from six months of age, feeding safe and appropriate complementary foods, along with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond’ http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infantfeeding/9241562218/en/

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2. Two 30-minute breaks per day

Breastfeeding mothers in South Africa are protected by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/acts/basic-conditions-of-employment/Amended%20Act%20-%20Basic%20Conditions%20of%20Employment.pdf) and are legally entitled to two 30-minute breaks per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk if their infants are younger than six months.

3. Promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding

In 2011, the Tshwane Declaration of Support for Breastfeeding in South Africa was signed by the Minister of Health and many other stakeholders. This stated that “the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding requires commitment and action from all stakeholders, including government and legislators, community leaders, traditional leaders and healers, civil society, HCWs and managers, researchers, the private sector, employers, the women’s sector, the media and every citizen”. http://sajcn.co.za/index.php/SAJCN/article/view/586/820

4. A breastfeeding-friendly work environment

It is possible to create a breastfeeding-friendly work environment by having a breastfeeding-friendly room, corner or space in your workplace where mothers may breastfeed their babies or express milk; and ensuring that there are refrigeration facilities for mothers to store breast milk if they are expressing.

5. Breast milk only

Give your baby only breast milk for the first six months; no other food or drink is needed at this age. If a baby is given other food and drink, they will consume less breast milk and receive less nutrition.

breastfeeding infographic

6. Protection against infection

Babies are protected against infection when they are breastfed. In addition to containing all of the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months, breast milk also contains antibodies that help to protect your baby against illness.

7. Breastfeeding assistance

Dietitians are trained to assist mothers with breastfeeding as well as to assist mothers with continued breastfeeding when returning to work and are able to help you calculate how much milk you need to express during the day. Click here to find a registered dietitian in your area visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa’s website: http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx

8. Breastfeed before and after work

Ensure that you breastfeed your little one before leaving for work and as soon as you get home. And for babies older than six months, make sure that the caregiver doesn’t give your little one a big meal/snack just before you get home, a smaller snack will be better, as your little one will then happily breastfeed and it may also relieve some engorgement.

9. Expressing milk

Expressing milk: ensure that you know how to hand express and that you have a pump that suits your needs (different pumps are required depending on the number of hours you work i.e. part time vs. full time). Also, build up a milk supply before returning to work.

10. Storing expressed milk

Expressed breast milk can be stored. All milk should be dated before storing. Storing milk in 60 to 120 ml amounts may reduce waste. Refrigerated milk has more anti-infective properties than frozen milk. Cool any fresh milk in the refrigerator before adding it to previously-frozen milk. Preferably, human milk should be refrigerated or chilled right after it is expressed.

Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1 to 7 August and this year’s theme is ‘Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s make it work’, addressing one of the challenges and fears that many mothers face – what happens when I have to go back to work?

For information on WBW 2015 visit www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org