Breastfeeding Awareness At Workplace
My breastfeeding journey started four years ago. And I am so grateful I have a good support system not just in my private life, but also at work.
However, I struggled a bit as to where to pump at work. We do have a clinic and silent room but it lacks some privacy - at least for me. And so together with other moms that time, we reached out to HR and made an effort to raise awareness. We presented our concerns (e.g. milk storage, etc) and also the law that covers our rights. HR was all ears but of course, we have limitations. So we made the most of what’s available. A signage was made so we can hang it on doors while pumping, so to add some privacy. As for milk storage, I sealed mine in lock&lock before storing in our common fridge.
Fast forward today (January 10, 2019 to be exact), so thrilled when HR asked me to review the design and layout of lactation room that will be put on the new office floor. Yey!!!!
I won’t be using it anymore (?!! 😅) but so happy for moms who are currently pumping and will be in the future.
How Did We Get There?
It is a happy ending indeed, but it won’t be possible without taking any action. “Okay Sen, I totally get it. But what did you do exactly?!” - I heard you!
Step 1: Assess your situation
Check what your workplace have at the moment. Is there a clinic? Is there a spare room that is available for anyone to use, for a period of time? Observe and list down what you think can be improved.
Step 2: Gather voices
Reach out and ask other lactating moms about their experience and feedback. Document it and make it anonymous (if requested) when you give it to Human Resource Department, either via email or printed document.
It is best to gather headcount and lots of input - including struggles and suggestions as it makes it easier for respective department to identify the common pain points, understand the situation and give importance to it. Remember, you’re doing this not just for yourself but also for every working moms in your workplace. “We’re all in this together” is your mantra!
From the sample feedback below, you will notice the common pain points: uncomfortable feeling and stress of not having enough privacy. These factors can greatly affect the milk supply of mothers.
Step 3: Do your research
Read and understand the law. Know your rights as a working and breastfeeding mom. In the Philippines, we have Republic Act No. 10028 or Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 that was signed to promote and encourage breastfeeding, as well as protect and present opportunities for mothers to continue expressing milk and/or breastfeeding their child. Site this law and related excerpt as part of discussion.
Step 4: Setup A Meeting
After I’ve done my research and collected feedback from all colleagues that I know who are pumping at work, I drafted an email for Human Resource Department. I’m sharing with you part of my email that I sent out to HR, to start a conversation on our concerns.
You may use this as a guide or inspiration. Few things to keep in mind: make it informative, positive and respectful.
Hi [Name of Human Resource Head],
Hope you're doing well.
Most of us have used the clinic as suggested and below is the compilation of feedbacks gathered:
[Tabulated feedback gathered from 10 employees]
Our common concern is the lack of privacy. Also, the atmosphere inside the clinic (and other location like sleeping lounge) as described above is not suitable for nursing moms as stress or uneasiness could affect her milk supply which is not beneficial for her child.
In behalf of the ladies, I would like to propose converting the Silent Room into exclusive and permanent Lactation Room. Most of us always use the Silent Room mainly because it offers privacy. Also for the reasons, (1) it is far from too much noise coming from the pantry area, (2) lavatory and ref are still accessible, (3) is spacious enough to be shared by 3-4 moms at the same time if properly converted into a lactation room.
To support this proposal, I am quoting the relevant portion of Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009.
Sec. 11. Establishment of Lactation Stations. - It is hereby mandated that all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions shall establish lactation stations. The lactation station shall be adequately provided with the necessary equipment and facilities, such as: lavatory for hand-washing, unless there is an easily-accessible lavatory nearby; refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk; electrical outlets for breast pumps; a small table; comfortable seats; and other items, the standards of which shall be defined by the Department of Health. The lactation station shall not be located in the toilet.
Additional standards for lactation stations under Sec. 10 of the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10028) – “The lactation station shall be clean, well ventilated, comfortable and free from contaminants and hazardous substances, and shall ensure the privacy for the women to express their milk and/or in appropriate cases, breastfeed their child.”
Sec. 12. Lactation Periods. - Nursing employees shall granted break intervals in addition to the regular time-off for meals to breastfeed or express milk. These intervals, which shall include the time it takes an employee to get to and from the workplace lactation station, shall be counted as compensable hours worked. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) may adjust the same: Provided, That such intervals shall not be less than a total of forty (40) minutes for every eight (8)-hour working period.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10028 also provides for the establishment of a workplace lactation policy:
Section 9. Workplace Policy - Every workplace shall develop a clear set of guidelines that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding program. The written policy should be developed in consultation with the workers, approved and properly disseminated to all concern. The Nursing/Lactating employees should be oriented on the proper handling, labeling, and storage of their own expressed breastmilk. The policy should be part of the company's general policy or manual of operation, and the policy should operationalize the provision of this IRR.
We would be happy to meet and discuss this further.
We appreciate your time and effort in reviewing our request. It will make us so happy knowing that our company is supporting our breastfeeding goals and journey.
Step 5: Be Hopeful
Four years ago, armed with information, we did an initiative and stood up for our rights. We carried the torch and finally, we will see results (hopefully, in the next couple of months!).
I encourage you to take action NOW, if you don’t have a proper lactation room and/or policy yet at your workplace. It may take time, but the important thing is you start a conversation. Raise awareness in a kind and respectful manner. Stand up for your rights while at the same time, be mindful and sensitive to other moms who took a different option (for whatever reasons they may have) - be it on mixed feeding or fully formula milk.
Be patient and hopeful. Just like what our dear Miss Universe Catriona Gray said, “Look for the silver lining.”
How’s your experience in your workplace? Do you face similar situation?
Share your experience in the comment section below! :)