Emphasis on workplace support

When Vandana Sri came back to work after three month’s maternity leave, she had already started weaning her baby, Akshara, off breast milk so that the baby would be able to manage without her when she was working.

Even with an increased awareness on the need for breast milk to help in child development, experts say, many parents are giving up earlier because they have to join work.

“It was very embarrassing for me to have to breast feed in public even during the three months, so I stayed mostly at home. Although six months is what the doctor recommended, it was not an option for me,” Vandana said.

This year, the theme for World Breastfeeding Week, which starts on August 1, is ‘Breastfeeding and Work’. Experts believe that improving the Maternity Benefit Act and improving the conditions for breastfeeding mothers in workplace is the main concern.

According to K. Shanmugavelayutham, Convenor, TN-FORCES, the District Level Health Survey shows a decline in number of mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding for six months from 62 per cent to 57 per cent in the 2012-13. “We cannot deny mothers work, but they need a support system, and the Maternity Benefit Act should be changed to allow six months maternity leave or provision for a crèche within the office and breastfeeding breaks given to the mothers. Strict action should be taken to ensure the Act is enforced,” he said.

The Chief Minister’s announcement of breastfeeding rooms in all bus termini is a welcome one, and similar rooms should be established in railway stations, parks, and all public places, he added.

When it comes to breastfeeding rooms, many hospitals themselves do not have such a provision. "For many doctors and nurses, breastfeeding becomes a problem," she said. 

In an organisation, especially, a breastfeeding room should be made compulsory. According to Jayashree Jayakrishnan, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, companies should provide a room with a fridge. “Here, mothers can express their milk every two hours and store it in the fridge. The milk that is expressed can be used for the baby the next day when the mother is at work,” she said.

When it comes to breastfeeding in public, it is the comfort of the mother that matters, she added.

Tips on breastfeeding:

Once a child is born, it should be placed skin-to-skin with the mother and breastfed within the first hour of birth

In the first six months, babies should be exclusively breastfed. Even water supplementation is not needed

With exclusive breastfeeding, babies have better intelligence, have less allergies, eczema, asthma and infections

It reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and anaemia in mothers

Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed around eight to 10 times a day. Night feeding is especially useful, since prolactin – the milk secreting hormone – production increases at night, and it helps the mother relax

When weaning a child off breast milk after six months, complementary food should be given two to three times a day, and can be mixed up with breast milk to improve the weaning process.

From nine months to 12 months, supplemental food should be given three to four times a day.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 4:36:53 AM |

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