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Aug 4, 2023

What role does the workplace play in breastfeeding?

“Enabling breastfeeding: Making a difference for working parents”. That’s the theme for this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Week, from August first to seventh. Breastfeeding is the process of delivering food in milk-form from mother to child. While it’s a natural process that is also recommended because of the crucial benefits for mother and child, there is a recognized decline in the time that working mothers give to breastfeeding. This year’s theme is important because it challenges workplaces to do their part in enabling lactation. This week’s Look on the Bright Side discusses the importance of breastfeeding and where Belize stands as it relates to business places enabling mothers to express their milk.


Sabreena Daly, Reporting

Breastfeeding, also referred to as nature’s golden food, symbolizes the precious bond between mother and child. It provides unparalleled nourishment and immune protection, making it a vital cornerstone for the healthy development of infants. This is the gospel shared by community health worker, Penelope Casasola.


Penelope Casasola, Community Health Worker

Penelope Casasola

“Breastfeeding is a natural food that comes from a woman’s breasts, and it’s under the control of the pituitary gland, which is the master endocrine gland, right under the brain. It sends all hormones to the glands. It is prepared during pregnancy so that at birth there’s colostrum, the first milk. It’s a sticky golden, and that’s the reason for the gold broach. It’s a golden food.”


She’s a retired nurse practitioner and educator who devoted her life to medical care both in Belize and the United States. After retirement, she returned home to Belize and sought to continue her efforts through volunteerism in community health education. Her passion is promoting breastfeeding for working mothers.


Penelope Casasola

“That’s how I got into the community aspect of caring. So I was volunteering, teaching mothers at Karl Heusner and then when I got to Matron Roberts, I was meeting those same patients I had taught and learnt that they had stopped breastfeeding, and I was so curious. It was because they were going back to work. And so most of my efforts are to meet the needs of women, families, in the community, the working families, to teach them that they could breastfeed and work.”


This year’s breastfeeding awareness theme challenges workplaces to provide spaces for nursing mothers to express their milk sanitarily, privately and free from discrimination. According to the Women’s Health Action, only forty-two countries mandate places of employment to provide breastfeeding facilities. In some countries, firm policies are in place to ensure that mothers also have flexible work arrangements and lactation rooms for a defined number of female employees.


Penelope Casasola

“The standard of care requires all institutions, all employers, and the international labor organization that women in the workplace who are breastfeeding are given breast expression breaks. And in some places, or places that are unionized, they get an extra hour for lunch so they can reconnect with their baby. And, um, many places do. A few do.”


And so we went in search of places here in Belize that recognize this importance. Calls were made to several well-established businesses in Belize City.  One by one, we were informed that these spaces were not available. We eventually stumbled upon a utility company that not only affords mothers flexible hours to attend to their nursing duty, but also had a lactation room.



Sheryl Terry

Sheryl Terry, Human Resources Assistant Manager, Belize Water Services

“The culture of BWS is one of a family oriented culture and we believe in family. And so we are happy to afford nursing mothers the opportunity for them to come into the nursing room to extract milk. We have a refrigerator that they will put the milk in and then they take it home in the evening in their little ice box for their lovely children.”


Gina Sosa is a staff member here at BWS. She breastfed her three children and shared how having a space at her job was helpful in facilitating this process.


Gina Sosa, Accountant, Belize Water Services

Gina Sosa

“Thankfully I did have a space provided and it was something that I’ve always shared with my staff. You know, it’s important for a mother and for the child. So for me it was an experience where I needed to have that privacy. I needed to have the consistency in being able to close the door and have that privacy to do it. When you’re first starting, it takes up a lot of time away from your work, even having that commitment of doing it because that, that’s the hardest thing, committing to doing it. And I think providing a space where you have that designated spot makes it easier.”


Penelope Casasola

“This is a haakaa pump that you press, you fold this over, attach it to the breast, and it forms a seal and the milk will just flow. So this is kind of popular. Um, and then instead of putting it in bottles, you can put it in bags, storage bags.  And keep it in a cooler. This is an insulated bag and you can use an ice pack or you can make your own. This is a box with ice. And keep it, and it’s fresh in there for 24 hours. The sad part is that women are even now expected to express their milk in a bathroom, which is a no no. That’s a crime to me. It’s a crime. It’s an unhealthy way of doing it. And I appeal to all employers out there. To recognize that nobody prepares a meal in a bathroom.”


Natali Perez and Mario Avelar are first-time parents experiencing the joy of raising their daughter, Amari. Natali has every intention to continue breastfeeding her baby when she returns to work. But she sought help from Nurse Penny to guide her through the initial stages of breastfeeding.


Natali Perez

Natali Perez, New Mother

“I think it was like the second night at the hospital, I’m like, you know, I need help. And I was walking in the aisle and at KHMH and I saw the numbers of a group, a group that helps with breastfeeding. I took a picture of it and after I came home, I called Ms. Penelope Casasola. And, sorry if I get teary, but she’s been such a help since, you know, and it’s been a difficult journey. We’re on the 11th day. She latched on yesterday, but because I took so long, the flow of milk is taking a while. I really want her to be breastfed. I know that it’s healthier, it’s healthier for her and for me as well. So breastfeeding will help me minimize the risk of getting type two diabetes and cancer and of course it relaxes me, which then the blood pressure would go down.”


This year’s breastfeeding theme also speaks of the importance that fathers play in breastfeeding. The theme recognizes parents rather than mothers alone and even speaks of an extension of paternity leave. Eleven days into parenthood, Mario explains ways that he assists his partner.


Mario Avelar, New Father

Mario Avelar

“She was sleeping last night for a few hours. So I took the time and I held her, I had her and put her to sleep right here. Two of us fell asleep a little while, while I was holding her hand. She was holding my hand. You know, and then just, I got up by instinct. she wasn’t moving, but I guess I felt like it was time then. Then I held her again, went to her mother and told her everything’s okay. She’s got to get her little break. Things like that, it helps. It helps a lot.”


So as we celebrate the importance of breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that parenthood’s boundless love shines in nursing. It’s an intimate display of affection, forging profound connections between mother and child that transcend words and barriers. It’s a celebration of life, a gift of health, and a timeless testament of the power of love—the purest expression of care from a mother’s heart and warm embrace.


Looking on the Bright Side, I’m Sabreena Daly

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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