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Aug 7, 2015

Breast is Best at the Workplace

It’s World Breast Feeding Week and Belize culminated its observance with an all day workshop to discuss breastfeeding and work. While there are no pieces of legislation that mandate work places to provide child friendly spaces for mothers to breastfeed, today was about changing that conversation in an effort to promote breastfeeding in the workplace. News Five attended today’s event.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The value of breastfeeding, particularly for the first six months of a baby’s life, has been at the center at the discussion of child development. Every year, breastfeeding is celebrated globally to highlight its importance, and this year the focus is on breastfeeding and the workplace, celebrated under the theme “Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make It Work.”

 

Jorge Polanco

Dr. Jorge Polanco, INCAP Coordinator/PAHO NCD Focal Point

“But who will make it work? It has to be us, us the ones who know and have the information and therefore as leaders in the community have the responsibility to share that information. Many times we take things for granted. We assume that because she is a lady and she got pregnant, she knows how to breastfeed. Wrong premise. Many times, the details, the benefits are not known, and there are many other reasons, and as result of that little sensitization, breastfeeding is not extended. They would give it at the hospital because Karl Heusner will not accept bottles, so they would give it there and go home – one day, two days and it disappears-that is a reality.”

 

And one of the ways that the Ministry of Labour is promoting breastfeeding is looking at how it can be encouraged in work places.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Labour

“That requires some additional legislation and some work, not necessarily to force compliance but to encourage compliance, so that there are facilities or should be facilities to allow mothers who are working to be able to at the same time serve their children and breastfeed their children. Of course, given the state of the economy, many employers will say that they can’t afford the time off, sometimes there are mothers who live far away, transportation is a problem, it may mean they have to stay home, all sorts of things has to be worked out. But the aim is to work towards getting there. That is the bottom-line of this workshop. So, if we can move to that and inject some funds in the various businesses to have a child friendly space, I think it would be a great improvement to the work place.”

 

Like the work place of working mom Kim Vasquez.  It’s very important for her to breastfeed her baby.  She shares what it’s like to have an enabling work environment.

 

Kim Vasquez

Kim Vasquez, Working Mom Who Breastfeeds

“My baby is six months old and I returned to work when she was four months. For me, my experience has been very positive. My workplace, I am very fortunate has been very supportive and enabling. I think every mom; one of the things that is always on her mind is her job security and one returning to the work place especially for a first time mom like me. There is always an element of stress, some fear and when you have a work place that is supportive, it takes a load off your shoulders and you don’t have to be worrying as much. Being able to be given a quiet place and a clean place to express breast milk for my baby; being given extended lunch hour to go home and re-connect with her that has been tremendously helpful for me. It allowed me to continue to breastfeed her. I had a goal as mom. I knew I wanted to breastfeed her and my job is not the usual desk job. For those of you who know the type of job we have at the Bliss Center as Programme Officer, for example, we had the summer camp going and we are running around doing different things. So, when you have a work place that is considerate of that and gives you the flexibility to be a mother, you know, you feel empowered; you feel empowered as a mother.”

 

And encouraging breastfeeding in the work places, especially during those critical first months, can yield many benefits from public health, to social, and economic.

 

Dr. Jorge Polanco

“And seeing how this could be promoted and supported at the level of work places. My personal feeling is that the information shared today will help to change the mind of Belizeans. Belizeans at all levels, management, operations, encounters in the medical care setting, private and public setting and level of community services. The significance is great and many times parents and employers have no clue as to the impact on the child when breastfeeding doesn’t’ receive the necessary attention it deserves.  If no breastfeeding occurs or if it is very limited, the infant will not have the opportunity to receive the antibodies from his mother to protect him or her against infections, from simple upper respiratory tract infections to meningitis and other infections that can lead to the death of the child.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

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