Updated: Feb 17
Did you know that over 823,000 Kenyan children who die annually could be saved if their mothers exclusively breastfed them for the first six months of their lives?
Well, this is true according to a workplace breastfeeding guidelines document prepared by the Ministry of Health in May 2018. In the guidelines document, the Ministry of Health outlines key things that employers need to implement.
Enforcement of the breastfeeding policy in Kenya is yet to be seen not only in the private sector but also in government offices.
In recognition of the big role that exclusive breastfeeding has to play in the lives of young ones, the Kenyan Parliament came up with the breastfeeding mothers bill of 2017 which clearly states that employers need to provide a conducive environment for mothers to breastfeed or express milk in the workplaces.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), which Kenya is a member state of, requires that employers provide one to two daily breaks to lactating moms. The body also states that lactating mothers should be given at least 14 weeks paid maternity leave as well as adequate facilities to either breastfeed or express breast milk at the workplace.
Despite all this though, the enactment of these laws are yet to be seen in Kenyan workplaces. Rarely will you find workplaces that have clean lactation rooms or those that allow breastfeeding mothers to bring in their children so that they can breastfeed them from there.
Most mothers have to leave their children under the care of nannies one or two months after birth so that they can continue working. Failure to do this would have them fired. And when they get back to work, they have to make themselves comfortable with expressing themselves in washrooms or filthy, secret places.
This of course poses a danger to not only the mother but also the child.
In her submission towards the breastfeeding bill of 2017, Hon. Sabina Chege (Women Rep Muranga County) says that no mother should be forced to compromise the health of her child in order to make a living.
Breast milk is the best food that you could ever give them for the first six months. After this, you still need to continue breastfeeding your kid till they reach 2 years. The milk has high nutritional value and protects your new-born from potential health conditions that affect babies.
Why should Kenyan workplaces embrace the breastfeeding policies
At Royal Care Medical Clinic Eldoret, we understand the pivotal role that exclusive breastfeeding has in the lives of young ones.
Our Head Nurse Patricia has this to say about breastfeeding:
Breastmilk is love turned into food. It takes someone special to share that love.
In the workplace setting, exclusive breastfeeding of babies will not only benefit workers but also the employer.
For the employed mother, they will have job security and feel great that they are able to take care of their children in an organization that recognizes that they are lactating mothers.
Exclusive breastfeeding enhances the health of the mother preventing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes. At the same time, the mother is able to space out their children since breastfeeding delays the return of your monthly periods.
The employer on the other hand is able to retain talent, have great employee morale and reduce the costs of hiring and training new staff every time a lactating mother has to quit work after they have delivered.
Manuela Tomei who heads the ILO Labour Protection Department puts it succinctly, “Employers who give mothers time to breastfeed get a higher return to work and enhanced employee morale”
At Royal Care Medical Eldoret, we regard exclusive breastfeeding with a lot of seriousness. In line with this, we do offer training to new mothers on how to breastfeed their babies as well as how to express themselves in the workplaces.