Breastfeeding at work: Good for mom. Good for baby. Good for business.

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week on 1 August, at the start of Women’s Month in South Africa, it is time to focus on supporting women’s efforts to breastfeed and give their children the best start in life. 

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is a leading child health institution and in this way is leading by example by supporting and promoting breastfeeding in the workplace.

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, together with the UCT’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, is happy to announce the opening of a dedicated breastfeeding facility for staff at the Hospital. The facility provides a space for all women working at the hospital to breastfeed or express milk in a comfortable, safe and private environment.

“In our institution, as with most health care facilities, the majority of the workforce are female, many of whom are of childbearing age.  We therefore have a responsibility to create a promotive and supportive environment for our staff who are returning from maternity leave to be able to either feed their baby or express breast milk” says Dr Anita Parbhoo, Medical Manager at the hospital.

This ties in with the First 1000 days initiative that advocates making sure that babies get the right kind of care, nutrition and stimulation for the period from pregnancy to two years of age, a crucial time for the development of healthy and happy children. The correct nutrition during this 1000-day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to develop and learn.

The 2016 Lancet Breastfeeding Series presents compelling evidence that investing in breastfeeding is the most effective single intervention in reducing child mortality.  Breastmilk contains a potent mix of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antibodies specifically tailored to meet an infant’s changing nutritional needs. It aids digestion, strengthens immunity and helps protect the baby from infections such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, asthma and allergies. These protective effects extend into adulthood reducing the risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, overweight and obesity.  In addition, breastfeeding protects women’s health promoting healing after birth, burning calories, and reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life, thereafter you can introduce your baby to solid foods after he/she has turned 6 months.  It is also a smart investment in children’s education as it is associated with higher IQ and academic performance and economic productivity.  It provides a foundation for healthy relationships by promoting early attachment and responsive care-giving, reducing stress and strengthening the bond between mother and child in the critical first 1000 days of life.

Promoting breastfeeding in the workplace also makes good business sense – helping to promote gender equality, reduce absenteeism (as breastfed babies are less likely to get sick than those receiving formula), and improve staff loyalty and retention. In other words, breastfeeding is good for mom, good for baby and good for business. 

“This facility will benefit our staff, who are mothers and still dedicate their time to take care of the children in the community. It is a testimony to our dedication to creating a conducive environment for breastfeeding in the workplace,” said Dr Matodzi Mukosi, CEO of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

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