In today’s news the Government and UNICEF are appealing to employers to allow mothers to breastfeed their babies in their work places, express milk or to give breastfeeding breaks to mothers. The campaign has been started because it has been realized that many babies are dying and many suffer from diseases that can be avoided through exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months as recommended.
This is a very noble idea; breast milk is very important to babies because it improves their immune system thus reducing child mortality rate. Working nursing mothers really suffer when going back to work. From my personal experience, one cannot work in peace when you think of your baby crying at home because you are not there to feed him/her. The other problem is breast swells with milk during the initial months making it very uncomfortable to concentrate on work; it gets even worse when milk spills through the bra to the dress or top one is wearing if the nursing bra or pads gets full with milk.
It is very difficult for working nursing mothers to express milk in their places of work because the facilities are not available in many companies, most of the time the only place one can express milk is in the ladies rooms, which can be very dirty because it is shared by other people from the same company or other companies so one cannot keep the milk. Luckily for me I worked in a small company where I got a place to express milk and keep in tight jars in the company fridge to take back home for my baby to use the next day. This really helped my baby, because it was very nutritious compared to other milk alternatives. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months are very different from those who have not been breastfed at all and also those who take other milk which is not the mother’s. I have also seen this with my kids and those of friends and relatives, those that are well breastfed rarely get sick.
I know it cannot be easy for many companies to adopt this practice in their offices, especially allowing mothers to breastfeed in the office. It is easier for employers to designate a clean place/room where mothers can express milk and if they are kind enough they can also keep a fridge in the room for them to store the milk. If many companies will allow, then other staff will understand when a mother has to leave the office a few times to go to the place. There are breast pumps in the market that can make it easier and faster to express milk to save time. Some companies in other parts of the world have nurseries that have such facilities but I have not heard of any in Kenya.
Sometime back I watched a South African documentary about a children’s home for orphans. They showed how the babies get breast milk donations from some mothers in the USA, the milk would arrive refrigerated by air and stored for the babies’ daily consumption. The babies looked very lively and healthy that one would not imagine their mother are not alive. This shows that breast milk is important for all babies, it is also possible for women in Kenya and African as a whole to donate breast milk to orphan babies and those whose parents cannot breastfeed them because of health reasons. If this can be supported by the government, organizations and citizens at large then we will have a healthier Nation. Mothers will not have to take offs every- now-and-then to take their sick babies to the doctor because they will be healthy.