Give breastfeeding moms a (lactation) break!

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today called on heads of government offices and private employers to comply with a new law that allows breastfeeding employees to take time off during work hours to pump and store their milk, which they could later take home to feed their infant.

Signed into law in March this year, Republic Act 10024, or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009” now permits paid “lactation breaks” to encourage working mothers to continue breastfeeding upon returning to work after giving birth.

“Reporting back to work should now pose less of a hindrance to working moms who want to continue giving breast milk to their newborn,” said Cayetano, principal author of RA 10024 and Chairperson of the Senate Committees on Health and Demography and Youth, Women and Family Relations.

A staunch breastfeeding advocate, Cayetano has breastfed all her children while also working as a full-time lawyer prior to her entering politics. She personally experienced the difficulty of being separated from her newborn when she reported back to work. But with her determination and a supportive office environment, she was able to sustain breastfeeding her infants then.

Cayetano urged government agencies to lead by example by allowing lactation breaks and putting up lactation stations for breastfeeding employees in the public sector. “All government offices should strive to become working mother- and baby-friendly establishments.” she stressed.

The lady senator made the appeal to mark the 19th staging of Breastfeeding Week which is observed globally from August 3-8 every year. The celebration this year carries the theme, “Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps. The Baby-Friendly Way.” The entire month of August is also observed as “Breastfeeding Month.”

“Employed mothers who just gave birth often have difficulty, or are totally unable to continue lactating, due to lack of time, support and facilities in the workplace. This new law liberates them from this predicament. Now, working moms will be able to express and store their milk during office hours and bring it home after work for their newborn,” she explained.

Cayetano noted that big malls in Metro Manila and in urban centers across the country have already put up lactation stations in their premises. Several private offices, including call centers, have also followed suit.

Under the new law, the lactation break should be for a minimum of 40 minutes for each breastfeeding employee for every eight-hour working period, in addition to the usual time-off for meals.

Additionally, RA 10024 requires employers to put up lactation stations or designate a private area where breastfeeding mothers can express their milk. The lactation stations shall be adequately provided with necessary equipment, including refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breast milk, a nearby lavatory for hand-washing, electrical outlets for breast pumps, and a small table and comfortable seat.

Expenses incurred by establishments in compliance with the law will be considered deductible expenses for income tax purposes that can be up to twice the actual amount incurred. But the establishments must secure a “Working Mother and Baby-Friendly Certificate” from the DOH to be filed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue before they can avail of the tax incentive.

The law also encourages health institutions to put up breast milk banks for storing pasteurized breast milk donated by breastfeeding mothers. Government medical facilities such as the Philippine General Hospital and Fabella Hospital in Manila have already pioneered the establishment of such “human milk banks.”

Breastfeeding will also be included in the education curriculum under relevant subjects in all levels of public and private learning institutions.

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