New bill calls for more support for breastfeeding mums returning to work
For breastfeeding mums who are still nursing as their maternity leave comes to an end, the return to work can put a lot of stress on their families.
And so today, at the start of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st – 7th), Irish experts are calling for increased support for working parents.
According to Katie Mugan, founder of NursingMama.ie, Breastfeeding & returning to work can be one of the most stressful times in a parent’s breastfeeding journey and can prove challenging for many parents in the early days as breastfeeding is a learned experience for both the parents and baby.
“Often parents are just getting into their groove when maternity leave finishes and they must return to work," Mugan explains.
"For many exclusively breastfed infants, they may not take a bottle which can heighten a parent’s anxiety when they return to work."
"In smaller infants, bottles are often an easier way for other caregivers to feed the baby. However, getting the baby used to taking a bottle if they have been breastfed can take up the last few weeks of a parent’s maternity leave. The older infant or child may be able to get through the day simply using a sippy or open cup until a mother returns home to feed."
'Breastfeeding parents must be supported'
Mugan says that to babies and families, the breastfeeding parent is a key figure and must be supported.
"Depending on the milk supply and age of the child, they may need to pump while at work," she explains.
"Having a private room to do so is necessary and a somewhere to store this milk."
Companies need to prioritise work and family life balance as this can benefit them greatly. Breastfeeding not only leads to better health for children in the short and long term but also for the family unit too. Supporting parents and reducing a stressful return to work can lead to better performance in the workplace."
Right now, the Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill is being introduced as part of an EU directive which has a deadline of August 2022. It has been proposed that the Bill brought to cabinet, will provide rights for workers to take breaks to breastfeed or express for up to two years after the date of confinement of their child.
The current law only provides for 26 weeks.
Under the new bill, employees will be entitled to take those breaks in one block of sixty minutes, two blocks of thirty minutes or three blocks of twenty minutes in an eight-hour working day. They can also take one hour at end of their working day.
CEO and Co-Founder of HR Buddy, Damien McCarthy worries that too much legislation is being introduced as part of a box-ticking exercise by Government with little or no support to help the employer to implement such legislation. This, he says may lead to employment relations difficulties between employers and employees in some circumstances.
“There’s a whole host of employers who has never dealt with breastfeeding in the workplace before, therefore guidance and support are required in order to make it work," McCarthy says.
"Appropriate facilities that are logistical and allow for privacy must be available. Facilities in the workplace need to be reviewed to ensure workers are encouraged to take their breaks. This means financial assistance is needed for SME’s.”