Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make It Work!

Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make It Work!
Privilege Speech
By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
17 August 2015

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

The month of August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This year, we celebrate with the theme, “Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make It Work!” As such, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege to call for support for the women who balance their maternal functions and their careers by combining breastfeeding and their work. [1]

Briefly, the benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months from birth get the best start because they are provided with “the perfect nutrition and everything they need for healthy growth and brain development.”[2] Breastfeeding also gives babies ample protection against many different infections, diseases, and life-threatening ailments, as well as obesity and non-communicable diseases such as asthma and diabetes. [3]

Breastfeeding is also in line with the “first 1000 days” project which prioritizes the health and nutrition of the mother and the child during and after pregnancy and until the first 2 years of a child’s life, which necessarily includes breastfeeding. It is said that “the right nutrition during this 1,000 day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. It can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.” [4]

Clearly, breastfeeding largely affects an infant’s health and development. It is thus necessary to empower working mothers.

The top reason for a working mother’s absence from work is a sick child at home. This is addressed when a child is healthy and has less illnesses. Breastfed infants have that advantage. The immunity provided by breastmilk protects an infant and boosts his/her immunity.

Thus, providing a mother with the means and the support needed can truly make a difference for the mother, those at home and those in the workplace.

Mr. President, our exhibit outside features breastfeeding mothers. Most of those featured are our very own employees, including my Chief of Staff, my Deputy Chief of Staff, my personal assistant, and other members of my staff. I’ve asked them to be here because they serve as examples to all women that breastfeeding in the workplace can work.

These women have succeeded because the three main factors for successful breastfeeding in the workplace are present – support, space and time.

On support. It is essential that employers, management, superiors, and co-workers exhibit positive attitudes towards pregnancy, motherhood, and breastfeeding, including adherence to policies and laws to support breastfeeding.[5]

On space. This includes a clean and safe work environment and private facilities for expressing and storing breast milk. [6] I am happy that we here at the Senate have our own breastfeeding room for mothers who continue to breastfeed after going back to work. This is in compliance with the Expanded Breastfeeding Act, a law enacted by this chamber to encourage and promote the practice of breastfeeding, as well as provide the support that nursing mothers need during this crucial time in her and her baby’s life.

On time. This includes not only flexible work hours to breastfeed or to express breastmilk, but also adequate maternity leave that enables mothers to spend time with their babies and to support exclusive breastfeeding.[7] Currently, our laws provide for sixty (60) to seventy-eight (78) days of maternity leave, depending on the kind of delivery. This is considerably less than the fourteen (14) weeks prescribed by the International Labor Organization.

In support of this, I have filed the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill, which your Senate Committee on Women is currently working on, to provide a sufficient length of time for mothers to regain overall health and fulfill maternal roles before returning to work full-time.

Mr. President, as we continue to celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this August, I am proud of the work environment we have created for nursing mothers. It is my hope that we continue to lead the way as a model for other institutions both public and private. Thank you. #

End Notes:

[1] World Breastfeeding Week 2015. http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

[2] World Health Organization. Breastfeeding Infograph. http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/pdf/infographic_breastfeeding.pdf

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.thousanddays.org/about/

[5] Ibid.

[6] World Breastfeeding Week 2015. Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano with the breastfeeding mothers of the Senate: “They serve as examples to all women that breastfeeding in the workplace can work.”

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