Returning to work after the birth of a child has many challenges for new mums, not least if they are still breastfeeding their baby. The benefits of breastfeeding are well known but in order to be able to continue to do so women need to ensure that their milk supply is maintained. In order to ensure they have the supply required to feed their baby, women need to express the milk throughout the working day.
There is still a debate about whether women should publicly breastfeed their child, and with workplaces not recognising the needs of nursing mums, many women are left with no other alternative, or choice, than to go to the one place they know allows them some level of privacy – the loo.
A lot of women have been stripped of their choice or freedom of where to express milk. They have been left with no other choice but to use less than ideal conditions to prepare food for their babies. Toilets have now become the hotspot for a lot of women to express milk. Luckily women are now expressing more than milk; they are expressing their disdain, hurt, anxiety, frustration and anger at having to express milk under less than ideal conditions at their respective workplace.
It is not like the workplace offers a suitable alternative. The need for privacy and time to express milk is not considered, respected and understood, but it is rather seen as a nuisance.
Employers do not see the added need to provide facilities that provide sanctuary for women to express in more sanitary conditions instead of having to use toilets, storage rooms and other rooms that provide privacy but not necessary comfort or cleanliness.
One of the reasons that a nursing mother requires to express is to prevent ‘leaking.’ This can be extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable for the woman if it becomes noticeable on through their clothing. There is also the pain that occurs when a woman does not express milk and a buildup can lead to infections such as mastitis.
This is already enough to show the urgency and need for women to express breast milk, however, a lot of workplaces lack the facilities or support needed to help breastfeeding mothers. Studies have shown that the anxieties, stress and employers should provide a spacious room with a closed door and privacy. A sink should be available for hygienic purposes and a refrigerator to store the milk coupled with other necessities such as chairs and tables. The absence of such facilities have left breastfeeding mothers with no other options than to express their milk in the less than ideal option – the toilet. This is an extremely unhygienic place for any breastfeeding mother to express milk. Many women have recalled instances of people barging into the toilet, colleagues peeping, employers showing zero empathy and sympathy to them expressing milk in the toilet.
Most women do not have the courage to ask for facilities or rooms that will cater to their needs and employers are not forthcoming in ensuring these facilities are available to them. For this situation to be addressed there needs to be a greater awareness of the problem.