NTUC U Family celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2016

Published on 30 July 2016

Today, some 100 participants comprising breastfeeding mothers and their families, joined NTUC U Family and special guest Mr Desmond Choo, Director, NTUC Youth Development Unit and champion for women and family, in celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week. The event was planned by breastfeeding activists from Project Liquid Gold  to engage the mothers and their families, and promote awareness for workplace support for working mothers to continue breastfeeding. 

Showing support for the cause, the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy Singapore and Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group conducted talks and shared with the mothers the importance of having peer support and baby-friendly community. Participants took part in several activities and the celebration ended off with the event highlight – ‘Latch-On, Pump-On' – where mothers gather for synchronised breastfeeding or expressing of breast milk.
Poll on 698 working mothers shows improvement in workplace lactation support
At the event, NTUC U Family also shared the results of their online poll conducted in June this year, to find out the level of workplace lactation support provided to breastfeeding mothers. The poll was done with 698 working mothers, of which, 690 have returned to work after their maternity leave, three are currently pregnant and five are still on maternity leave.
Key poll findings showed that 98.8 per cent of the 690 respondents, who returned to work after maternity leave, continued to breastfeed. About 60 per cent indicated that their companies do provide private nursing rooms for breastfeeding mothers to express milk. This is a noteworthy increase from the 35 per cent recorded in 2013 . On the other hand, close to 40 per cent do not have private nursing room or space and this resulted in 31 per cent of these mothers having to express milk at toilets and storerooms.
Of the 1.2 per cent who stopped breastfeeding after returning to work, three in four indicated that they lacked time to regularly express milk at work; two in four lacked conducive environment to express milk at work; and one in three lacked support from employers and co-workers. 
“I wanted to continue breastfeeding for as long as I can because I believe that the breast milk is the best nutrition I can offer to my child. Unfortunately, I had to stop as I return to work after my maternity leave. There is no nursing room at my workplace and I do not have the support from my colleagues or management. Had my workplace been supportive towards breastfeeding and had the initiative to provide a comfortable area to express milk, I would have continued the journey of breastfeeding,” said 33-year-old credit analyst – a respondent who stopped breastfeeding her child after returning to work.
Supporting the key reasons for the mothers to continue breastfeeding, NTUC U Family found out that having understanding and supportive supervisors and co-workers was ranked as the most important factor to their continuing of breastfeeding. This is followed by having the flexibility to express milk during working hours and having a private lactation room or space to express milk. 
One of the respondents, 35-year-old Wendy Tan said, "I am blessed to have colleagues and bosses who understand the needs of a breastfeeding mother. Despite not having a dedicated lactation room, my Human Resource colleague assured me that I have free access to whichever empty room for my pumping sessions. My colleagues do not judge these sessions as a waste of time and it is a privilege to work at this company which is fully supportive of a staff who is also a breastfeeding mother. "
NTUC U Family saw greater support for lactation facilities
Since NTUC U Family’s call for more flexibility in building design guidelines for baby-friendly office buildings in 2013, more workplaces are incorporating lactation facilities and fostering a culture of understanding and support among their employees.
For example, Greenwave Systems Singapore is one company that has been working closely with NTUC U Family towards building a family-friendly workplace for its employees. The management has implemented flexible work schedule with Nursing Time Off policy where employees are provided with one hour of lactation period to be used during work hours at their workplace nursing room or home. General Manager and Quality Assurance Vice-President Alan Lee said, “We look at implementing such initiatives in a practical, broad approach. It’s really to ensure flexibility for our employees to achieve a work-life balance without compromising performance. By being more caring, we go beyond having mere transactional working relationship. It goes to a more personal level and it builds trust. That goes a long way in retaining our employees.” 
Moving forward
The Labour Movement will continue to call on government agencies to review the use of gross floor areas for lactation use and help existing office building owners who have used up the permissible gross floor area to look into unused common spaces to install public nursing rooms. Employers are encouraged to introduce breastfeeding-friendly workplace policies and a supportive culture for their breastfeeding working mothers. With 90 per cent of mothers indicating that they are willing to use public nursing rooms should their workplaces provide no lactation facilities, the Labour Movement also urge office building owners to provide common nursing rooms so that more mothers can benefit.  
Commenting on the poll results, Mr Desmond Choo said, “We are heartened that more workplaces are providing lactation support for breastfeeding mothers.  There are important health and relational benefits to breastfeeding. Our working mothers are determined to embark on the breastfeeding journey while pursuing their career ambitions. This balancing act is arduous and very challenging. Support from the employers is integral to helping them. This is especially so when they have just returned to work.  We will continue to work closely with the government and encourage more companies to help our mothers to raise healthier children and build stronger families.”
Moving forward, NTUC U Family will introduce online courses, including tips and advice on getting employer’s support, to help prepare mothers to continue breastfeeding upon returning to work. This acts to supplement existing initiatives like the Workplace Breastfeeding Mentor Programme and Breastfeeding Community Circle.  NTUC U Family will also continue to engage various stakeholders as the initiative believes that every employer, employee, community and union has roles to play towards building a breastfeeding friendly nation with mothers rejoining the workforce.

Tags: NTUC,  Singapore,  Breastfeeding,  Mothers,  Lactation

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