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Allow moms to breastfeed at work

World Breastfeeding Week (Aug 1-7) is celebrated in more than 170 countries to encourage the practice and improve the health of babies. Marking the occasion, the ILO highlights the importance of allowing breastfeeding at the workplace.

News | 03 August 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Allowing breastfeeding at work is good for mothers and their infants, and it’s good for employers, the ILO said.

“The right to continue breastfeeding – upon return to work from maternity leave – is important for the health of the mother and especially for that of her child,” said Manuela Tomei, who heads the ILO Labour Protection Department.

Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months-old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of complementary foods for up to two years.

Employers who give mothers the time to breastfeed ... benefit a higher rate of return to work and enhanced employee morale."
Manuela Tomei
“Employers who give mothers the time to breastfeed, and designate a place where they can do so in hygienic conditions, benefit in terms of increased productivity as a result of lower parental absence on account of improved child health, a higher rate of return to work and enhanced employee morale,” Tomei said.

A report published by the ILO in 2010, titled Maternity at Work: A review of national legislation says that legislation in at least 92 countries provides for breastfeeding breaks, in addition to regular breaks, for nursing mothers. The time allowed is often at least one hour, usually divided into two breaks of 30 minutes each.

But many mothers still have to choose between either returning to work and giving up breastfeeding or facing the risk of losing their job.

To date, 25 countries have ratified the ILO’s Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183) which calls, among others, for at least one breastfeeding break a day or a reduction of working hours to allow for breastfeeding.

Workplace support for mothers who are breastfeeding has been a basic provision of maternity protection since the first Maternity Protection Convention (No. 3) in 1919.

The convention, adopted at the ILO’s annual conference in 2000, is legally binding for the countries that ratified it. The ILO also adopted a recommendation saying that where possible facilities for nursing should be made available at or near the workplace.

“A woman shall be provided with the right to one or more daily breaks or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed her child.”
ILO Convention, 2000 (No. 183) Article 10(1)

“The period during which nursing breaks or the reduction of daily hours of work are allowed, their number, the duration of nursing breaks and the procedures for the reduction of daily hours of work shall be determined by national law and practice. These breaks or the reduction of daily hours of work shall be counted as working time and remunerated accordingly.”
ILO Convention, 2000 (No. 183) Article 10(2)

“Where practicable and with the agreement of the employer and the woman concerned, it should be possible to combine the time allotted for daily nursing breaks to allow a reduction of hours of work at the beginning or at the end of the working day.”
ILO Recommendation, 2000 (No. 191) Paragraph 8

“Where practicable, provision should be made for the establishment of facilities for nursing under adequate hygienic conditions at or near the workplace.”
ILO Recommendation, 2000 (No. 191) Paragraph 9