Women who are able to reach their goals of having families, as well as their career goals, are better, happier employees. According to the Department of Health, in 2014 the breastfeeding rate (mothers with a history of breastfeeding) was 86%, and yet the exclusive breastfeeding rate for babies up to 4 – 6 months old was only 27% (1). This shows that mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, yet encounter difficulties in persisting. Returning to work has found to be one of the biggest obstacles. Indeed, support from the employer is vital for a mother to maintain successful breastfeeding, which benefits the mother, the baby, and the company. To help cultivate a baby friendly environment in Hong Kong, we highly recommend employers of all industries to develop a Breastfeeding Friendly Work place for their valued employees.
What is a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace?
A “Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace” is a workplace with appropriate facilities and policy to accommodate the needs of breastfeeding employees, who are indeed important assets of the company. It acknowledges the intimate relationship between meeting their personal needs and enhancing work productivity. By providing appropriate space and privacy for milk expression by employees during breaks, the employer encourages a positive attitude towards the practice of breastfeeding, thereby improving the health and future of the community.
Potential Benefits for a Breastfeeding Friendly Company
- Being known as a “breastfeeding friendly company”, the employer creates a positive impact on society and enhances corporate image
- Facilitates recruitment and reduces turnover as women employees are attracted to jobs that acknowledge and meet their needs
- Increases morale, commitment & productivity due to job satisfaction
- Reduces absenteeism of women employees because of improved health of their children
Potential Benefits for Mother Employees
- Facilitates postpartum recovery
- Reduces incidence of illness in infants
- Provides best nutrition for infants
- Creates a special bond between mother and infant
- Enhances the mother’s self-esteem and confidence
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer
To become a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace in Hong Kong
Breastfed babies need to be in timely contact with the mother. Returning to work after maternity leave can pose difficulties. The best is for mothers to be able to breastfeed directly during nursing breaks at work. Otherwise, adopting the practice below to become a Breastfeeding friendly workplace can help mothers overcome some of the hurdles. These are the five criteria:
- A designated clean, private area for the mother to express breastmilk
- A comfortable chair, an electric outlet for breast pump, and a sink for washing hands and equipment
- A small refrigerator for safe storage of expressed breastmilk
- Permission for employees to express breastmilk during short breaks
- Encouragement of management and co-workers to have a positive, accepting attitude towards working women breastfeeding