SINGAPORE- The labour movement’s U Family unit has called on more employers to support back-to-work breastfeeding mothers through providing flexible lactation breaks, and for office building owners to provide functional nursing and family corners.
According to a U Family Survey on Breastfeeding conducted in April of 1,318 married women, 98 per cent were aware of the health benefits to mothers and babies if babies are breastfed for a minimum of six months.
Yet, 30 per cent of mothers said they weaned off breastfeeding before their babies turned six months old when they returned to work.
Close to 50 per cent who did not breastfeed, or planned not to breastfeed for at least six months, felt that there was a lack of support at the workplace – such as lactation breaks and functional lactation corners. Half said employer support at the workplace was “most important” for them to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
Some challenges cited included inconvenience, a non-conducive office environment, disruption to work, lack of time to express milk during office hours and lack of support from employers and co-workers.
Many believe it is the basic right of a female employee and breastfeeding mothers to be given lactation support by the company: 798 respondents said they would approach their supervisor or HR representative to ask for support.
If their employer still did not provide support for breastfeeding after they had requested for it, nearly half (48 per cent) respondents admitted they would stop breastfeeding or cut down on their pumping sessions altogether.
As for the type of help they prefer, 44 per cent wanted lactation support such as functional lactation corners, lactation breaks and storage facilities. And 23 per cent wanted the option of flexible work arrangements, while 21 per cent hoped for employers to be more understanding and accommodating.
Based on the survey findings, U Family urged employers and managers to work out a flexible arrangement with breastfeeding mothers, so that they can take 20 to 30 minutes – beyond their regular meal breaks – to prepare and express their breast milk.
The union also pointed that there is no requirement for building owners to provide family or nursing corners in office buildings, including those in the Central Business District. It is not uncommon for nursing mothers to pump their breast milk in toilets and utility rooms.
The union called on owners of office buildings and public areas with a considerable workforce size and financial resources, to consider building baby-friendly infrastructure — like a safe, clean and private area equipped with storage facilities for mothers.
One supportive employer cited was Sembcorp Industries, which not only provides hospital grade lactation pumps but also a steriliser and refrigerator in its nursing room – even though a vast majority of employees at its Jurong Island office are male. Such facilities are offered at Sembcorp’s corporate headquarters as well.
On Saturday, more than 3,000 parents and babies thronged the National Trades Union Congress’ third Baby’s Day Out bash – an annual networking event for parents – at The Lawn@Marina Bay .
They set the record of Singapore’s largest national flag made up of more than 1,000 milk bottles, in a show of support for baby-friendly practices at the workplace.