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Becoming an advocate for breastfeeding in the workplace

Know your rights – breastfeeding or expressing in the South African workplace

Women make up 45.67% of the South African labor force. That’s 45.67% of a labor force who may bear children and have to return to work shortly after the 4th trimester. Creating a breastfeeding-friendly workspace is in the best interest of employers to cater to the mental health and well-being of new mothers and their children who will make up the future workforce and leaders of our country.

A perception exists that upon returning to work, mothers need to ‘give-up’ breastfeeding and put their children on formula or, alternatively – give up work altogether in order to breastfeed and meet the nutritional needs of their infant children. In the South African climate, this leads to a cycle of poverty where breastfeeding mothers cannot afford formula and must breastfeed but cannot leave their babies to return to work to provide for their families and so the cycle continues.

It’s in our best interest as a community to advocate for breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.

Cassidy Clarke, Fed is Best

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Legislation supporting breastfeeding in the workplace

According to South African legislation, women are entitled to breaks of 30 minutes twice per day for the first 6 months of the child’s life. This right is protected in The Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of the Child. This code is issued in terms of section 87(1)(b) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) 75 of 1997.

advantages of breastfeeding-friendly workplaces​

Less employee absenteeism: breastfed babies receive antibodies to bolster their immune systems. Breastfeeding mothers are less likely required to stay at home to look after sick children.

Higher employee retention: Employees who want to breastfeed their babies are more likely to return to a workplace that provides a supportive breastfeeding environment.
Increase in morale and loyalty: attitudes towards returning to work are positive for mothers with a smoother transition into the workforce postpartum where they feel supported and catered for as new mothers.
Improved PR and company image: the company is perceived as one that cares for the health and wellness of its employees and their families and makes the workplace an attractive place of employment.

What does it mean to ‘support breastfeeding’ in the workplace?



get your guide

Being an advocate for breastfeeding in the workplace means making small, yet effective adjustments to the work environment to support breastfeeding mothers.

Here’s how you can play your part to support new mothers according to Side-by-Side

  1. Appoint a working group to facilitate breastfeeding support in the workplace.
  2. Build awareness among staff and management about the breastfeeding policy and the breastfeeding needs of working mothers.
  3. Identify an influential breastfeeding advocate from amongst your staff to champion the breastfeeding cause.
  4. Identify a suitable and private space for moms to breastfeed or express their breastmilk.
  5. Allow flexible scheduling of work duties to support breastmilk expression during work hours.
  6. If possible, allocate a dedicated fridge for expressed breastmilk.
  7. It would be advisable to keep record/register of how many staff use the breastfeeding room.
  8. Report on and celebrate the establishment of your breastfeeding room in your staff newsletter.
  9. Evaluate the breastfeeding policy and amend when necessary.

affordable products to support breastfeeding at work

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