by Rachel Mohamed

BREASTFEEDING

Plight of the working mother

breastfeeding image.jpg

Being a mother is not a ‘walk in the park’. Many things need to be considered, especially from a working mothers’ point of view. One of the biggest issues surrounding mothers of infants is breastfeeding. While the law covers women via maternity leave for the first three months of a child’s life, it is commonly known that a child requires breast milk up until the age of at least 6 months.

However, there are exceptions. Some companies would allow the mother to take more time off post birth – mostly with three months unpaid leave. In today’s economic climate, realistically, most would not be able to take a three month unpaid sabbatical.

Mothers, and more specifically, new mothers, will never find a shortage of advice. This advice typically comes from family members, the matriarch within the family, colleagues/friends and the many online platforms that cater for the subject. Advice is always appreciated, and is mostly good, but solutions to the challenges are mostly amiss.

From breastfeeding, to getting your infant a childcare close to work, with a mall that caters for your needs, as well as those of your baby. These malls have pharmacies that have specialized baby wellness programs which can assist the mother. Were it close to her place of employment, it would simplify her life greatly.

On the other hand, the mother’s concerns will be who stays with the baby when the time comes for her to go back to work. In most cases the preferred choice would be to leave the baby in the care of a family member. As childcare is the last resort that she will think of, if there’s no one to look after the young one.

Catherine Pereira, spokesperson from the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) says there are cases where women are not given enough maternity care and going back to work becomes a stumbling block for them to continue with breastfeeding their infants.  She added that mothers who can’t put a  “balance” on giving breast milk to their babies while working will result in ending breastfeeding early on and it becomes an on-going struggle.

Pereira said: “Women from all communities need to be supported to continue to breastfeed when they return to work, and everyone should work together to ensure that breastfeeding mothers receive the support they need”.

Public breastfeeding is another matter of concern. Many debates have formed around this and social media has been a place of much criticism. These criticisms lead to many mothers feeling uncomfortable breastfeeding in public.  This natural process must take place, which often leads to the mother resorting to unhygienic places/areas such as public toilets.

However, The Department of Health has come up with the Breastfeeding and Related Matters Bill, a new bill that protects the mother’s rights from being “discriminated” and intimated by people in society, when feeding their babies in public spaces.

Joe Maila, spokesperson for Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi said: “…as government, we fully support breastfeeding as it has been proven as one of the interventions that will reduce this country’s infant mortality… it is the way to go. I think criticism of public breastfeeding is unwarranted and absurd.”

It is not an easy task to breastfeed as a mother, but good practice and help from the correct people, can make your path a reasonably smooth one.

Mental and physical preparation is critical in the process of breastfeeding, so one would hope that the bill will minimise, if not completely eradicate the public stigma around breastfeeding in the public space.

The importance of breastfeeding should not be underestimated. It is the best way for babies to get fresh milk. It is also very important in the bonding process between mother and child. It is not only the best way, it is also the most cost-effective manner to feed ones child.

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