The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged governments and employers to adopt family-friendly policies to ensure a healthy child growth and survival.
Some of these policies include paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and preferable, for six months. These policies are particularly important for working parents. Mothers need time away from work to recover from birth and breastfeeding their children.
This was contained in a press release signed by the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Anthony Nsiah- Asare, to commemorate the 2019 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW).
According to Dr. Nsiah Asare, breastfeeding was universally endorsed by the world health and scientific organisations as the best way of feeding infants, adding that, studies have found that not breastfeeding increases the risk of and incidence of illnesses.
The Director-General said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) ratified maternity protection convention in 2000, which provided for maternity leave of at least 14 weeks, with extension to 18.
It also provided a framework that could be used to spearhead positive action in addressing maternal health, economic security and gender equality. He suggested that there was the need to increase the maternity leave to 18 weeks to give the mother-baby enough time together.
He underscored the need for mothers to do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. This, he explained, would reduce infant mortality due to common childhood illness such as diarrhoea or pneumonia and help for a quicker recovery during illness.
Dr. Nsiah- Asare appealed to community-based organisations, traditional and religious leaders and private sector to provide the enabling environment to support women to practice optimal breastfeeding.
“When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her inability to continue breastfeeding depends on having access to breastfeeding breaks, a safe, private and hygienic space for expressing and storing breast-milk and affordable childcare at or near her workplace. Returning to work too soon is a barrier to exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age two or longer,” he emphasised.
He noted that, while breastfeeding was a natural act, it was a learned behaviour and studies have demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers required active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices.
On the first week of August every year, the Global Health Community celebrates breastfeeding week. This is a global campaign coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).
This year’s theme, ‘Empower parents enable breastfeeding,’ is a call for countries to advocate for parental protection policies and legislation, parent-friendly workplaces in both the formal and informal sectors.
It also focuses on contributing to the health and well-being of mothers as well as help to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, which according to the statement, was the very secure way of feeding and it is safe for the environment.