As a working mother, returning to work after having a baby can be overwhelming – from choosing an appropriate child care provider, parting with your baby, maintaining breastfeeding, among other things. The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of their life, and to continue breastfeeding – along with offering complementary foods up to two years of age and beyond. A recent survey in Bermuda found that approximately 16% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding at six months, with some mothers reporting that returning to work was a barrier for them in trying to meet their goal. This is, nevertheless, an increase – from 1% in 2001, evidencing improvements within our community.
Currently in Bermuda, some mothers are returning to work as early as 6 – 8 weeks postpartum. This means that employers are in an strong position, with an opportunity to support and increase breastfeeding rates in Bermuda; benefiting mothers, their infants and families, as well the national economy. A supportive employer can help a mother reach their individualized breastfeeding goal by being a baby friendly workplace. This involves having a breastfeeding policy for staff, a safe space for mothers to express milk, allocated breaks for expressing and appropriate facilities. A systematic review of current literature, found that all employers are able to implement a breastfeeding support program that aligns within their company’s budget and resources; with some companies offering more extensive programs than others.
There are multiple benefits for mother, infant and employer if a mother can continue to breastfeed her infant upon returning to work, not limited to, but including:
• Optimal nutrition for infant, balanced vitamins, proteins and fat
• Reduces the risk of contamination during formula preparation
• Fewer ear infections, respiratory illness and diarrhea
• Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
• Able to achieve breastfeeding goals, therefore boosting self-esteem
• Maintains milk supply
• Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer
• Supports the post-partum healing process
• Reduced time out of work caring for a sick child
• Financial benefits (can cost over $2300 to formula feed a child for a year)
• Enhances business image within the community
• Formulates a supportive work based culture
• Reduces employee time off caring for a sick infant
• Employees feel valued and supported within the workplace, enhancing staff morale and commitment to work
August is Breastfeeding awareness month!
The Department of Health is currently conducting a survey to find out how supportive employers are to breastfeeding mothers. The results of this survey will be presented during August, along with known supportive businesses.
If you have had a good experience and would like to highlight your employer as a baby friendly workplace, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stickers are available for businesses to display, demonstrating their support of breastfeeding mothers. For a sticker, please contact: Ministry of Health on 278-4900.
If you have had a negative experience and would like to seek assistance please contact: Human Rights Commission on 295-5859 or Contact your Health Visitor (Hamilton Health Centre 278-6460).