As we observe World Breastfeeding Week 2023, it is crucial that we shine a spotlight on the challenges faced by working mothers who wish to breastfeed their children. This annual event, organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), emphasizes the immense benefits of breastfeeding for both infants and mothers. However, we must acknowledge that many women struggle to continue breastfeeding due to inadequate workplace support. This is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention from governments, employers, and society as a whole.

Breastfeeding is not just a personal choice; it is a fundamental right that every woman should be able to exercise without compromising her career. Workplace challenges remain the most common obstacle for women who either do not breastfeed or cut their breastfeeding journey short. As society evolves and women increasingly participate in the workforce, creating an environment that supports their dual roles as mothers and professionals is essential. Maternity leave plays a pivotal role in enabling breastfeeding. While some countries offer adequate paid maternity leave, there are still over half a billion working women who lack access to essential maternity provisions. World Breastfeeding Week 2023 highlights the urgent need for at least 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, ideally extending to more than 6 months. Longer maternity leave not only facilitates the bonding between mother and child but also allows mothers to breastfeed for a more extended period, leading to better health outcomes for both.

Returning to work after maternity leave can be a daunting experience for new mothers, especially regarding breastfeeding. Employers must recognize the value of a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. Sadly, only 42 countries currently mandate breastfeeding facilities in workplaces, leaving countless working mothers without the support they need. We must challenge this status quo and encourage employers to invest in providing appropriate breastfeeding accommodations to ensure that working mothers can continue breastfeeding their children without stress or discomfort.

Beyond physical facilities, flexible return-to-work options are crucial. The transition back to work can be overwhelming for new mothers, and having the flexibility to accommodate breastfeeding or expressing milk should not be a luxury but a basic right. By implementing such provisions, employers can demonstrate their commitment to supporting the well-being of their employees and their families. Promoting breastfeeding at work is not just about enhancing individual health outcomes; it is also an investment in a sustainable future. Breastfeeding has a positive impact on children’s lifelong development and health, which ultimately contributes to building healthier societies and workforces. Moreover, it is essential to recognize that when women receive comprehensive support to balance work and breastfeeding, it benefits everyone involved – from families to employers and the broader community.

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, we call upon governments, policymakers, and businesses to step up their efforts to support working mothers. We must establish robust maternity protections, ensuring that all women, irrespective of their work, have access to at least 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and breastfeeding accommodations. It is our collective responsibility to create an inclusive and nurturing environment that allows women to embrace their roles as both caregivers and professionals.

Let us seize this opportunity to champion best practices in workplace-related breastfeeding support, providing every working mother with the tools she needs to succeed in both her personal and professional life. By doing so, we will not only foster healthier families but also build a stronger and more equitable society for generations to come. Let World Breastfeeding Week 2023 serve as a catalyst for change, empowering working mothers and paving the way for a brighter, more supportive future for all.

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