UNICEF, ILO seek employers’ support for breastfeeding women

By Ferdinand Patinio

August 1, 2023, 11:20 am

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – In commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week, international organizations on Tuesday urged employers in the Philippines to give more importance to breastfeeding women.

In a statement, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that breastfeeding is one of the most accessible care policies that can be applied in the workplace.

They added that it is a clear measure to help women transition back to work after giving birth.

“The benefits of breastfeeding for children, mothers, and society are widespread. Breastfeeding protects infants against life-threatening infections, supports healthy brain development in children, and prevents chronic childhood and maternal illness, reducing health care costs,” said UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary in a statement.

Republic Act 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 mandates all establishments, public or private, whether operating for profit or not, to support breastfeeding in the workplace.

They are convinced that recognizing the importance of this gender equality and health-promoting practice for working women, paid nursing breaks, flexible arrangements and workplace nursing facilities still remain untapped resources for the large majority of women.

“Maternity protection to support exclusive and continued breastfeeding is a universal but unfulfilled human and labor right. Paid and job-protected maternity leave and adequate maternal and child healthcare are essential to the life, health, safety and economic fulfillment of women and their children,” said ILO Philippines country director Khalid Hassan.

“However, discrimination based on maternity persists for many women in the Philippines and across the world,” he added.

For breastfeeding to succeed in the workplace, the UNICEF and ILO encouraged employers to fulfill workplace provisions of RA 10028 which mandates that a workplace lactation policy with relevant provisions that is part of the general policy/manual of operations and widely disseminated among employees; a dedicated lactation/breastfeeding station in the workplace not located within a toilet, where breastfeeding mothers can wash up, breastfeed or express their milk in comfort and store their breastmilk afterwards.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order No. 143/2015 provides models and lists lactation station equivalences for establishments with peculiar workplace circumstances.

It also mandates that lactation periods should be added to the regular time off for meals and that these periods should be counted as compensable hours worked and not less than a total of 40 minutes for every eight-hour working period, with two to three breastmilk expressions lasting 15 to 30 minutes each within a workday.

In the Philippines, a 2019 study by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) found that marriage and childbearing are associated with a significant decline in female labor force participation.

The Covid-19 pandemic also worsened the uneven share of housework and family care between women and men, with over 2 million moms around the globe leaving the labor force in 2020.

The World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from Aug. 1 to 7. (PNA)