If you haven’t heard, it’s World Breastfeeding Week, and we’re very excited! This annual celebration is spearheaded by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and is supported by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and thousands of other worldwide organizations, companies, community groups and individuals who are champions of breastfeeding. All of us at Leading Lady are proud to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and salute new moms who strive to nurture their babies in the best way possible.
World Breastfeeding Week is not just a celebration for moms, however. This worldwide event is truly for everyone because breastfeeding is a global mission. In many countries, breastfeeding quite literally saves lives as it is the only available, non-contaminated source of nutrients for babies. But around the globe, no matter what country you hail from, exclusive breast milk is the very best nourishment for babies for the first six months of their lives, according to the World Health Organization.
Breastfeeding offers seemingly endless benefits for babies, including stronger immune systems, less risk of immediate and lifelong diseases, lower risk of diabetes and obesity and a stronger bond with mothers, to name a few. Mothers reap many benefits of breastfeeding too, such as lowered risk of certain types of cancer, less postpartum depression and an easier time syncing and bonding with their babies. When you tally up all of these benefits and the many more not listed, breastfeeding is priceless when it comes to the health of babies and mothers.
But the value of breastfeeding goes beyond the two people involved. It can uplift an entire family, communities and societies by cultivating healthier citizens. As less people are sick, less illness and disease spreads. With less sickness, health care expenses are reduced including physician bills, testing, treatment plans, medication and long term care. All of these result in fewer burdens on our healthcare system, our workforce and our environment. Plus, more people get to enjoy lives as they are meant to be.
Therefore, supporting moms supporting their babies is up to each of us, not only mothers. As the saying goes, it takes a village. But how does the village support the act of breastfeeding? The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week speaks to this very notion: Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make it Work. For mothers to return to work and meet their breastfeeding goals, breastfeeding or pumping will be an essential part of a new mom’s workday. The goal of this World Breastfeeding Week is to open the eyes of employers to create change in the workplace so moms have the opportunity, space and freedom within their careers to continue breastfeeding.
As co-workers and friends, we can help in supporting moms supporting their babies by furthering a breastfeeding friendly workplace. Moms will likely have to pump two or three times during a workday for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This means she’ll be away from her job for about an hour a day, but it doesn’t mean so won’t still be good at her job.
Supporting breastfeeding moms at work begins by letting them know that you are on their side and are happy to help when you can. An ally goes a long way, especially when others are less supportive. When you do find someone who doesn’t understand breastfeeding or makes inappropriate comments, stand up for your co-worker and be her advocate.
Additionally, consult your co-worker on her pumping schedule and try to avoid scheduling important lunches, meetings or other work events during those times. If you see that a breastfeeding mom is leaking or uncomfortable during a meeting, call a break for yourself without calling attention to her. Respect that she needs and wants to get home to her new baby as soon as possible so don’t keep breastfeeding moms at work later than necessary. And remember, breastfeeding is strenuous work for new moms. Your co-worker may be hungrier than usual so offering a snack may really get on her good side.
Supporting moms supporting babies is truly for the greater good. At work, at home or out in public, you can be a champion for moms and help support the goals of World Breastfeeding Week.
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