FOR almost all women, becoming a mother is a happy occasion. Getting to meet one's precious bundle of joy for the first time after nine long months is a wonderful feeling. Oh boy (no pun intended), what a delight it is to start the journey of motherhood!
Interestingly, three to four months later it would be time to return to the world of REALITY. This includes going back to work and leaving your precious child with a caregiver. It also entails expressing breast milk at the workplace.
To my astute readers, let me share my predicament with you. Going back to work was a must, as I needed to obtain a salary so as to continue providing for myself, household and my son — the newest addition to the family — and to also improve my personal development. I was going back into the routine of the daily activities.
But wait a minute, here comes the filling up of my breasts accompanied by pain and discomfort. So what does that mean? Well, it means it is time to take a quick break to relieve the pressure of my aching breasts by extracting my son's number one source of food and nutrients. As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization states that breastfeeding is the cornerstone of every child's survival, nutrition and development. The filling up of my breasts would take care of the when factor, now let's examine the joys of where expressing the milk should take place.
Oh where, oh where would I go to release this pressure before I'd have to suffer with these engorged milk jugs? Oh yes! There's one place that quickly comes to mind — the staff lounge. This is primarily used for eating and the occasional relaxation. Now readers, here I am with my breast pump and my breasts out of my clothes expressing milk while my colleagues are having their breakfast and/or lunch. Hmmm… what a breast milk chronicle! My colleagues encourage the act because they are all women, but in the back of my mind I'm uncomfortable and do believe that there are those who might not be so accommodating with the said act. Just imagine eating your food and hearing this annoying sound of the breast pump and seeing milk flowing into a bottle. Guess what! I, too, am annoyed by that irritating sound and I do feel a tad uncomfortable when people are in the room. Sigh! Now do you understand the reason behind breast milk chronicles?
The long and short of the breast milk chronicles is that I believe that organisations should look into the matter, make it a priority, and make the necessary provisions by having a designated, comfortable space to accommodate lactating mothers. It is equally important to remember that a significant number of women of childbearing age are employed in the labour force. Additionally, data derived from the International Labour Organization database and World Bank population estimates state that the female labour force in Jamaica for 2018 was 45.6 per cent. For this reason, PAHO/WHO recommends that employers implement policies including flexible or reduced working hours for breastfeeding mothers, and a dedicated room for breastfeeding in the workplace that is private and hygienic. Additionally, PAHO/ WHO advises that governments should also implement maternity protection legislation and related measures consistent with the International Labour Organization's 2000 Maternity Protection Convention and Maternity Protection Recommendation. This recommendation also speaks to break periods for breastfeeding and the accommodation of hygienic facilities in the workplace.
I do hope that in the near future this will become a reality. It should become a priority for stakeholders to be sensitive towards women who are on the journey of motherhood. It is the basic rights of humans to understand and become empathetic, caring, thoughtful and considerate of women who will need to step away from their daily duties to express this needed commodity in a comfortable, hygienic space. It is important to realise that women who plan to return to work after giving birth are less likely to continue breastfeeding to the recommended time period of six months, especially if the workplace support is minimal or absent. Governments and workplaces must make this a priority, which is in keeping with the 2030 millennium goals, to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Dahoma South is a new mother who recently headed back to work, and shares her experience with having to express her son's number one source of food and nutrients.