Breastfeeding kit to support mothers in the workplace

Tuesday, 5 October 1999

A new kit being developed by Adelaide University researchers will be distributed to 50,000 workplaces around Australia in an effort to promote the benefits of combining breastfeeding and paid work.

Statistics show that about 27% of Australian women return to work within the first 12 months of their baby's life. Finding ways of combining breastfeeding and paid work is likely to be an issue for these women.

A contract to develop and distribute the breastfeeding information kit has been awarded to Adelaide University's Department of Public Health by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

The kit will inform employers and workplaces of:

  • the benefits of supporting female employees who wish to continue breastfeeding their babies on returning to paid work
  • the various workplace practices that support the continuation of breastfeeding among female employees

The kit will also inform women that:

  • they can continue to breastfeed on returning to paid work from maternity leave
  • there are benefits to themselves and to their babies in continuing to breastfeed on return to paid work, especially in the first six months of their baby's life
  • there are steps they can take to maximise their success at combining breastfeeding and paid work

Workplaces to be targeted include medium to large workplaces which employ women of child-bearing age, particularly women from low socio-economic and diverse cultural backgrounds.

The manager of the project is Ms Ellen McIntyre, who recently completed a PhD at Adelaide University dealing with the development of a breastfeeding-friendly work environment.

"Exclusive breastfeeding is vital for the first six months of a baby's life, with continued breastfeeding desirable over the next two years and beyond. The aim of our project is to make this possible even when a mother returns to paid work," Ms McIntyre says.

"If babies aren't being cared for at the workplace, mothers will usually need to express their breastmilk twice within an eight-hour working day. This could take about 30 minutes each time.

"There are a range of other options available to mothers, and with the right support from their employers and workplaces they can maintain the all-important breastfeeding relationship with their baby.

"There are so many benefits to both mothers and employers through workplace breastfeeding that not to facilitate the practice in workplaces around Australia would be a golden opportunity lost," she says.

Other members of the project team include Dr Dino Pisaniello and Dr Richie Gun, also from Adelaide University's Department of Public Health, and Mr David Frith from the Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Dr Pisaniello and Dr Gun have extensive expertise collaborating with industry in the field of occupational and environmental health, while Mr Frith will be able to liaise effectively with a wide range of employer organisations.

 

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Mr David Ellis
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