Employers urged to support breast-feeding in the Caribbean
WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has called for more employers to support breast feeding mothers in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
In a message to mark World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, PAHO said employers who supported breastfeeding were not only taking the “ethical high road” but were likely to reap benefits for their businesses and their countries’ economies.
The benefits of breastfeeding extend to mother and baby, and promoting breastfeeding policies in the workplace is essential,” said PAHO’s Dominica-born director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2015 is ‘Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work!’
PAHO said the campaign highlights the need to support women in balancing work and family, and especially to breastfeed their babies according to public health recommendations.
These recommendations are based on research that demonstrates health benefits from breastfeeding that range from reduced infections and improved IQ in babies to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers, PAHO said.
It said studies also show that promoting breastfeeding in the workplace produces benefits for employers, including greater employee loyalty to companies as a result of gratitude and satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism because breastfeeding employees’ babies get sick less often and less severely.
Other benefits comprise retention of employees, reducing the need for training and the loss of qualified personnel; and improved productivity.
To support breastfeeding, PAHO recommends that employers implement policies, including paid maternity leave, paid breaks for breastfeeding, a dedicated room for breastfeeding in the workplace that is private and hygienic, and flexible or reduced working hours for breastfeeding mothers.
In addition to urging employers to adopt these policies, PAHO and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts advise that governments play a role by implementing maternity protection legislation and related measures consistent with the International Labor Organisation’s 2000 Maternity Protection Convention.
That convention calls for at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave for new mothers, as well as breastfeeding breaks and facilities in the workplace.
Although only 29 countries globally (in the Americas, only Belize and Cuba) have ratified the 2000 convention, many more countries have implemented provisions of two earlier ILO conventions on maternity protection, PAHO noted.