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Breastfeeding women call for more support at work

Breastfeeding women call for more support in workplace

Women breastfeeding their babies in the workplace need more support from their employers and workmates, says the lead researcher of a new study into breastfeeding at work.

Dr Debbie Payne, Director of AUT's Centre for Midwifery and Women's Health Research, says women who attempt to breastfeed in the workplace are often discouraged by lack of facilities and the attitude of their employers and colleagues.

"Women who return to the workforce need a designated area to breastfeed and express milk," says Dr Payne. "But some of the women surveyed were unhappy with the allocated space. Two of them had to use the shower cubicle, which some cultures find totally inappropriate."

In New Zealand's first qualitative study of breastfeeding mothers at work, Dr Payne and her team interviewed 30 women from professional occupations. A third of those surveyed returned to work within three months of having their babies.

Dr Payne's preliminary findings, announced during World Breastfeeding Week (1-7th August), further highlight the need for workplace environments to be more favourable for mothers.

She says many women were put off breastfeeding in the workplace after observing the treatment of other employees trying to feed their babies.

"Women need to have the support and understanding of their employers - and workmates. Two of the women had been discouraged from returning to work because of comments made by colleagues towards other mothers. They were worried about not being seen as slacking off."

Dr Payne says there is increasing recognition of the short and long term health benefits for babies who are breastfed. The Ministry of Health reports increasing numbers of women returning to work within 12 months of having a baby.

The 'Infant Feeding and Work' study, conducted in association with Women's Health Action and La Leche League, will be officially released next month.

Dr Payne will be at Big Latch-on Day, Auckland Zoo, from 11am on Saturday August 6, where Women's Health Action is co-ordinating an attempt to break the national record for "The Most Women Breastfeeding Simultaneously".


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