World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2015 is August 1st-7th! This WBW, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) calls for global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Weather a woman is working in an office or work from home, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
It is widely recognized that breastfeeding provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. The WBW 2015 theme on working women and breastfeeding revisits the 1993 WBW campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative.
Much has been achieved in 22 years of global action supporting women in combining breastfeeding and work. We’ve seen the adoption of the revised International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 183 on Maternity Protection, and more country efforts on improving national laws and practices. Actions have been taken at workplace level to set up mother and baby-friendly working environments, including awards to recognize breastfeeding-friendly employers, and greater mass awareness on working women’s right to breastfeed.
Still, much remains to be done. UNICEF’s 1990 Innocenti Declaration called on government to “enact imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women and establish means for its enforcement.” According to WABA, UNICEF’s call has not been paying the attention it deserves.
With the WBW 2015 campaign, WABA calls for:
- Concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work, whether in the formal sector, non-formal sector, or at home.
- Ratification and implementation of maternity protection laws and regulations by governments, in line with the ILO Maternity Protection Convention.
- Inclusion of breastfeeding target indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
WABA defines work in its broadest form from paid employment, self-employment, seasonal, and contract work to unpaid home and care work. There are five objectives of WBW 2015 coordinated by WABA:
- Galvanize multi-dimensional support from all sectors to enable women everywhere to work and breastfeed.
- Promote actions by employers to become family/parent/baby and mother-friendly, and to actively facilitate and support employed women to continue breastfeeding.
- Inform people about the latest in global maternity protection entitlements, and raise awareness of the need to strengthen related national legislation and implementation.
- Strengthen, facilitate, and showcase supportive practices that enable women working in the informal sector to breastfeed.
- Engage with target groups (e.g. trade unions, workers rights organizations, women’s groups, and youth groups, to protect the breastfeeding rights of women in the workplace.)
Whether you are a mother that claiming your right to breastfeed or an advocate that campaigning to support to work and breastfeed, WABA says that there are three necessary factors that determine success: time, space, and support. All three factors are needed for women in any kind of working setting.
- Time: Adequate paid prenatal leave and six month paid postpartum maternity leave to support exclusive breastfeeding. Where maternity leave is shorter, women need means to extend their leave period, combining paid and unpaid leave, so that they can be with their babies.
- Space: Infant and child-care at or near the workplace and transportation for mothers to be with their babies. For rural worksites and seasonal work, women could use mobile child-care units, shared child-care, or nurse arrangements according to accepted cultural practices.
- Support: Information about national maternity laws and benefits, and maternity provisions provided at workplaces, which may be better than national laws and practices.
San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition has long been promoting and supporting all women to combine work and breastfeeding. Employers, employees, and mothers can find SDCBC’s working and breastfeeding resources here. Together, let’s make breastfeeding at work work!
TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞