On the African continent, South Africa has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates. Only 44% of newborns worldwide are breastfed within the first six months of life, and only 40% of infants younger than six months are exclusively breastfed. By 2025, the United Nations set goals to enhance newborn nutrition, including eradicating hunger and raising the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) to at least 50%. Despite the WHO Code rules having been accepted by the World Health Assembly since 1981, violations are nevertheless common because of lax enforcement, monitoring, and implementation in low- to middle-income nations.
Baby mortality and morbidity rates have increased excessively as a result of the skyrocketing sales of infant formula in LMICs, including South Africa. In order to better understand the key activities and strategies required to improve breastfeeding outcomes in South Africa within the context of the HIV epidemic, this study’s specific objectives were to achieve just that.
One of the best strategies to ensure a child’s health and survival is to breastfeed them. However, the rate of newborns who are not exclusively breastfed for the advised 6 months has been stable over the past 20 years at close to 2 out of 3.
For newborns, breastmilk is the best food. It contains antibodies that aid in preventing a number of prevalent pediatric ailments, and it is secure and hygienic. Breastmilk continues to supply up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year of life and up to one-third during the second year of life, providing all the energy and nutrients that the infant need for the first few months of life.
Children who are breastfed score higher on IQ tests, are less likely to become overweight or obese and are less likely to develop diabetes in the future. Breast and ovarian cancer risks are lower for women who breastfeed. The international endeavor to increase breastfeeding rates and duration is still being hampered by inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
Why breastfeeding is good for mothers
There is no need to carry bottles and formula with you when you are out and about. It is convenient and ready when the baby needs it at the ideal temperature without the need to sterilize. It helps your uterus (womb) return to normal size more quickly. It helps you bond with your baby. It lowers your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and diabetes.
Is Breastfeeding in public is a human right?
Babies are entitled to all human rights from the time of their birth. These include “the right to the best attainable quality of health” as well as “the right to life, survival, and development.” On March 21, when we commemorate Human Rights Day, we should acknowledge that when our culture requires mothers to breastfeed in public restrooms, it is not only cruel and harmful, but it also violates their fundamental human rights.
The development of any infant depends greatly on breastfeeding. Unambiguously, breastfeeding a kid during the first 12 months of its life is the best approach to ensure that it grows up healthy, according to hundreds of scientific research on the topic. However, if nursing mothers dare to breastfeed in public, they risk harassment and public humiliation.
“It’s an indictment on our society that we tolerate topless models in our fashion magazines, but that breastfeeding mothers are chased out of public spaces on a daily basis,” says Stasha Jordan, breastfeeding activist and executive director of the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR).
“Many mothers are forced to use public bathrooms to feed their babies rather than face this kind of abuse,” says Jordan. “A public toilet is one of the most unhygienic and dangerous places that you can nurse your infant in,” she continues.
South African legislation already protects breastfeeding in the workplace. Every working day, employees with newborns are required to be given two breaks of 30 minutes each under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), in order to express or nurse the child. For the infant’s first six months of life, these pauses are required.
Launch of the state-of-the-art Milk Bank
In 2019, the Gauteng department of health launched the upgraded milk bank at Kalafong Hospital, a facility that has helped save more than 4000 newborn lives over the previous ten years. The debut occurred in conjunction with Pregnancy Awareness Week (10 – 16 February). The purpose of this week is to inform expectant mothers and new moms about the importance of early antenatal care, breastfeeding, and family planning. The pasteurized donated breast milk will save many more lives as a result of the R600 000 renovations, sponsored by Discovery and the South African Breastmilk Reserve.
Modern sterilization technology and remote temperature monitoring ensure the ideal temperatures for milk storage in the one-of-a-kind semi-mobile clean room laboratory. Along with other required equipment that enables the milk bank to comply with all laws and specifications for sustainable breastmilk donation, the room also has a High-Efficiency Particulate (HEP) air filter for air purification. The first public hospital where SABR established a milk bank in the City of Tshwane.
Why is breastfeeding an important issue for women workers?
Many women work while they are pregnant, and many continue to work after giving birth. For infants and young children, the optimum dietary source is human milk obtained through breastfeeding. It develops strong bodies and minds. Additionally, breastfeeding fosters a tight, loving bond between mother and infant.
Some mothers, however, believe that in order to breastfeed their infants, they must stop working. Others struggle to locate a private area at work where they can nurse. Others believe that they should give their infant formula in order to return to work more effortlessly.
Even while nursing protection is crucial for everyone, breastfeeding women may only make up a small portion of the workforce at any given moment. Only women may play the roles of mother and nurser, but both are advantageous to all because breastfeeding can be challenging at work, working women need protection from discrimination and harassment in particular.
Can you breastfeed at the workplace?
Employers are required to provide breastfeeding employees with 30-minute breaks twice daily for breastfeeding or expressing milk for the first six months of the child’s life in South Africa under the Code of Good Practice on Protection of Employees During Pregnancy and After the Birth of a Child (which is a part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act). This indicates that in addition to your customary lunch and tea breaks, you are permitted two breaks of 30 minutes each (if any).
Unfortunately, the Code of Good Practice fails to address a number of important points, as per the bullets below:
- It does not specify whether your breastfeeding breaks are paid or unpaid
A mother who wants to continue breastfeeding at work after maternity leave must communicate with her boss or employer. In order to set up a clean and private area, expectant moms should inform their employer well in advance of their plan to breastfeed or express milk at work.
- It doesn’t require your employer to give you a suitable space for expressing or for storing your milk
However, one should make an effort to make sure that their breast milk may be chilled or kept in a personal cooler bag
- There are no penalties for employers who fail to comply with any breaches in terms of the Code of Good Practice
According to the employer’s grievance system, an employee would have recourse and would be required to file a formal written grievance on a grievance form. If the employer does not have such a process, the employee might search for grievance procedures online and follow the customary method in this regard.
The employee has the right to file a labor dispute claim with the CCMA or the appropriate Bargaining Council if the grievance process is still ongoing.
Companies that encourage breastfeeding and/or breastfeeding-related expression reap numerous benefits, including decreased medical costs and health insurance claims for breastfeeding employees and their infants, decreased staff turnover, absenteeism, improved productivity, and raised employee morale and loyalty to the business. Employers should follow the general standards specified by the Code.
South Africa’s new regulations on infant foods
In December 2012 The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcome the publication by the South African government of the Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children, based on the World Health Assembly Resolutions and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
The new regulations protect parents and health professionals from aggressive or inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes like formula milk, milk-like drinks, and teas that are specifically marketed as suitable products for infants and young children. They also support breastfeeding as the best option for infant feeding.
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes has been in force on a voluntary basis in South Africa since it was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Nevertheless, reports of Code violations by the infant food sector have continuously come from around the nation.
Breastfeeding improves growth and academic success while saving lives by shielding newborns from pneumonia and diarrhea, the two diseases that kill the most infants and children in South Africa. In the first six months, babies do not require any liquids to save breast milk because breast milk already provides all the nutrients and water they require.
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