Becoming a mother is an exciting and overwhelming experience, and one of the most crucial aspects of motherhood is breastfeeding. However, for many women, the biggest challenge they face is the need to return to work while their baby is still reliant on breast milk.
World Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2023 #WBW23 focuses on breastfeeding and employment/work. The impact of women having to return to work before they are ready, workplace support and emerging parenting norms on breastfeeding through the lens of parents themselves.
Below we discuss the importance of workplace support, designated rooms for pumping, the factors affecting women giving up breastfeeding, and the effects of returning to work prematurely.
In New Zealand, empoweringwomen and supporting their rights to breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace is essential.
One of the most crucial factors in supporting breastfeeding mothers who return to work is providing designated rooms for pumping.
The New Zealand Employment Relations Act 2000 requires employers to provide reasonable opportunities for employees who wish to breastfeed or express milk. These designated spaces should be clean, private, and equipped with a comfortable chair, a small table or workstation, and access to a refrigerator for storing expressed milk. Providing these facilities not only shows respect for the needs of breastfeeding mothers but also ensures their health and well-being are prioritized.
When discussing maternity leave with your employee, be sure to raise questions regarding how they will be able to support you if you choose to continue to breastfeed/pump when returning back to work.
Unfortunately, many women face challenges that lead them to give up breastfeeding prematurely when they return to work. Understanding these factors is crucial in developing support systems to overcome them. Some common factors include:
1. Lack of Time: The demanding nature of work often limits the time available for breastfeeding and pumping sessions, leaving mothers feeling pressured and overwhelmed.
2. Insufficient Support: A lack of understanding and support from employers and colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation and hinder a mother's ability to maintain a successful breastfeeding journey.
3. Inadequate Workplace Policies: Many workplaces lack comprehensive policies and flexible arrangements for breastfeeding and pumping, leaving women feeling unsupported and unsure of their rights.
Returning to work before feeling ready to give up breastfeeding can have significant physical and emotional effects on women. Here are some key impacts to consider:
1. Decreased Milk Supply: The sudden change in breastfeeding frequency can disrupt a woman's milk supply, leading to lower production and potential difficulties in maintaining breastfeeding.
2. Emotional Distress: The separation from their baby and the struggle to maintain breastfeeding can cause emotional distress, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and even feelings of guilt.
3. Increased Health Risks: Breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits for both mother and baby, including protection against chronic diseases. Not being able to breastfeed for an extended period can increase the risk of health problems for both.
Empowering Women: Supporting Breastfeeding and Pumping Rights in the Workplace:
To empower women and support their breastfeeding and pumping rights in the workplace, several actions can be taken:
1. Workplace Policies: Employers should develop comprehensive and flexible workplace policies that explicitly address breastfeeding and pumping needs. These policies should outline the rights and entitlements of breastfeeding mothers, including breaks for pumping and suitable spaces for expressing milk.
2. Education and Awareness: Employers and colleagues should be educated about the benefits of breastfeeding and the challenges faced by returning mothers. This awareness will cultivate a supportive environment and encourage empathy and understanding.
3. Supportive Culture: Creating a workplace culture that normalizes breastfeeding and pumping creates a positive and inclusive environment for working mothers. Encouraging a supportive and flexible atmosphere that allows for open communication about breastfeeding needs can make a significant difference.
4. Work Schedule Flexibility: Offering flexible work schedules, including options for reduced hours, modified shift patterns, or the ability to work remotely, can help working mothers better balance their responsibilities and breastfeeding commitments.
5. Lactation Support Services: Employers can provide access to lactation consultants or seminars to educate and support mothers on maintaining breastfeeding while navigating the challenges of returning to work. Additionally, employers can consider subsidizing breast pumps or providing information on available resources and support groups.
By raising awareness and educating parents In New Zealand, it empowers and protects their rights to breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace.
By providing designated rooms for pumping, addressing the factors that contribute to premature breastfeeding cessation, and recognizing the effects of returning to work prematurely, we can create a supportive environment that enables women to continue their breastfeeding journey.
It is time to stand together and advocate for the rights and needs of working mothers, ensuring that they can successfully balance their careers and the beautiful journey of breastfeeding.
If you are returning to work and want to ensure you are well educated on your rights while breastfeeding or pumping while at work, here is the link to the NZ ministry of business employment code.