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World Breastfeeding Week: Supporting Breastfeeding in the Workplace

World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) focuses on the theme “Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents,” emphasizing the importance of time and support for mothers to breastfeed successfully.

Facility Mentor Mother Francinah Qasin sharing breastfeeding best practices with a client at the Ikhwezi Community Health Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

While global encouragement for breastfeeding exists, working women face several obstacles. Workplace challenges are the primary reasons why some women either never breastfeed or stop prematurely, especially when dealing with conditions like HIV.

At mothers2mothers (m2m), we encourage and support our clients and staff—both living with HIV and HIV-negative—to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months. We spoke to Jessie Mzemba, a young Mentor Mother from Malawi, about how she managed breastfeeding upon returning to work:

Q: How did you make breastfeeding work as a working mother?

A: When I returned to work, my baby was only three months old. As a woman living with HIV, I exclusively breastfed for the first six months to minimize HIV transmission risk. Fortunately, m2m understands the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, and my workplace is conveniently close to where I live. My manager allowed me to take time every three hours to feed my baby and provided a space for me to pump at work. This way, I can feed my baby with expressed breast milk while working and visit her often to nurse her.

Q: What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

A: On busy workdays, I can’t walk home to feed the baby, so I arrange for my nanny to bring her to me or collect expressed milk at the clinic.

Adolescent Peer Mentor Mother in Malawi—Jessie Mzemba and her daughter.

Q: What support did you receive from your manager and colleagues?

A: The best support I received was being allowed to breastfeed my baby at regular intervals. My colleagues are understanding and handle my clients when I’m away to feed my baby, ensuring the clients receive the care they need.

Q: What advice would you give to other working mothers?

A: Speak up for yourself and communicate with your manager and colleagues about the support you need. Plan together to find a workable solution.

Nomonde Tengwa—m2m’s Innovation Hub Program Manager, has the following message for managers around the world:

“As managers, we should create a conducive environment for breastfeeding women. Allow them to pump breast milk as needed and provide facilities to store their milk, such as dedicating space in work fridges for storing cooler boxes. In situations where space allows, consider letting mothers bring their babies to work if working from home is not possible.”

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