Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Consistency needed in ‘mum policies’:

Policies on parental leave & in the workplace should be consistent with expert views on breastfeeding from health authorities.
By Motherpedia
Date: August 20 2013
Editor Rating:

Policies on parental leave should be consistent with best practice medical advice on breastfeeding according to a health economics researcher from the Australian National University (ANU), Dr Julie Smith.

“It is rarely acknowledged that exclusive breastfeeding is very time intensive,” says Dr Smith.

Dr Smith and co-author Robert Forrester say mothers who exclusively breastfeed their child spend 6.6 hours a week longer at milk-feeding than mothers who partially breastfeed or formula feed. Dr Smith says this has important implications for health policies and programs including paid parental leave.

“Time is a big factor in how new mothers choose to feed their babies. Exclusive breastfeeding may add to the time spent feeding because you need to feed more often and it’s harder to share the feeding with someone else.”

“This conflict in health policies and paid parental leave needs to be rectified,” says Dr Smith.

Only 15% of babies in Australia are still breast fed at six months of age.

Another study by consumer products manufacturer, Philips Avent, also suggests that workplaces could and should be more supportive of breastfeeding mothers returning to work.

The survey found that 61% of mums returning to work who have expressed in order to continue breastfeeding their child, were made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in doing so.

Child health nurse Jane Barry says that some women want to return to work before their child is six months old and workplaces should be encouraging it by being more flexible and having more mum-friendly facilities.

“We don’t want breastfeeding mums huddling in toilets to express milk,” she says.

“Good workplaces will have a comfortable room where breastfeeding mums can have some privacy and time but there are very few workplaces like that around.”

The Philips Avent survey showed that 29% of new mums who participated in the survey had access to a comfortable and private space at work, but a further third felt they could not talk about it at all.

“From an employer perspective, they’re getting a more productive, happier and loyal employee. It allows the mum to continue to feel connected to her baby, while also getting enjoyment from being at work,” said Ms Barry.

Dr Smith agrees that different strategies are required to support mothers to breastfeed for the recommended six months.

“We need to help mothers to meet health recommendations for breastfeeding by promoting  time saving strategies for new mothers, such as additional help with housework and other childcare, lactation breaks in the workplace, and on-site childcare,” says Dr Smith.

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