I'm also on the Central committee for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (a charity who train counsellors and run the national breastfeeding helpline alongside our own national helpline). I'm also on the DH breastfeeding stakeholder's committee.
I'm waiting for breastfeeding to be mentioned in the discussions about flexible parental leave and I'm increasingly horrified to realize it isn't being.
If a mother returns to work at 2 weeks or even 2 months, what are the chances that baby will still be receiving breastmilk exclusively? Who is assessing the likely impact on breastfeeding rates across the UK and the long-term health implications?
I frequently work with women transitioning to work and asking about how to express milk at work and liaise with their employers. Last month, a very typical conversation: a mother's employer would only allow her 2 fifteen minute pumping breaks in addition to her lunch hour. This wasn't sufficient to maintain her milk supply. She was ending exclusive breastfeeding. Her employer is under no obligation to consider her individual situation, nor age of her baby nor offer anything other than 'rest breaks' described vaguely under Workplace Regulations. Any other requirements to allow pumping are simply HSE recommendations and have no legal status.
How many times will a mother of a 1 month old baby need to express during a working day if that baby is to remain exclusively breastfed as recommended? Typically every 3 hours as an absolute minimum. She will need access to a good quality pump (which will be expensive), storage facilities and a place as well as a time.
The key risk time for a mother to develop mastitis is 3-8 weeks post-partum. Insufficient pumping is likely to put the rates of mastitis and subsequent breast abscesses through the roof.
I'd like to know who is considering these sorts of issues as we encourage mothers back to work with sore nipples (typically in my groups, a mother will still often be struggling with latching baby on the breast for the first 4-6 weeks). Employers are not ready to incorporate even mothers breastfeeding at 6 months into the workplace. We do not have the American model where employee milk expression is the norm. The current guidance given to employers and the current obligations employers have towards breastfeeding mothers is laughably insufficient if these changes go forward.
I know from my contact with the DH through my participation in the breastfeeding stakeholder's committee that breastfeeding policy and leadership is in a state of 'flux' to put it politely. If these issues aren't considered now as we move forward with flexible parental leave we will have a generation of babies who are not exclusively breastfed in their first few months. Rates will crash after all the hard work of the last 15-20 years and infant hospitalisation in the first 12 months for gastroenteritis and respiratory infection with increase alongside increased risk of adult health conditions in the decades to come. The money that will then drain out of the health service could have been usefully spent educating employers, providing appropriate facilities for pumping and changing employer requirements for facilitating the opportunity for doing so.
Parents have rights to work and earn their living. What are the rights of the infant?