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Breastfeeding in the workplace: What new moms should know

Breastfeeding or pumping milk during the day while you’re at work can mean facing a host of challenges, which unfortunately often leads to moms deciding to give up breastfeeding earlier than recommended. 

In a perfect world, a newborn requires exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of its life for optimal growth and development and continued breastfeeding, combined with solid foods, for two years or longer. Working mothers returning to jobs and careers following their maternity leave period will face the challenges of juggling work and home responsibilities. 

If you are concerned about breastfeeding or pumping at work, it’s best to start by knowing what you are allowed to do, from a legal standpoint.

Know your rights: South Africa’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act states, that the legal rights of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace are as follows: 

  • Breastfeeding mothers are legally entitled to two 30-minute breaks per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk if their infants are younger than 6 months.
  • Breastfeeding breaks are paid time.
  • Employers should provide a clean and private area for breastfeeding or expressing milk, as well as a facility for storing the milk.
  • Breastfeeding mothers should not be discriminated against or harassed for choosing to breastfeed or express milk at work.
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While South Africa has legal rights in place for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, they may, unfortunately, face the following challenges in trying to exercise these rights: 

  • The Code of Good Practice does not specify whether the breastfeeding breaks are in addition to or part of the normal breaks, such as lunch or tea breaks.
  • The Code of Good Practice does not require employers to give breastfeeding mothers a suitable space for expressing or storing their milk, nor does it specify the minimum standards for such a space.
  • The Code does not impose any penalties for employers who fail to comply with its provisions, nor does it provide any remedies for breastfeeding mothers who are denied their rights.

For more tips on breastfeeding in the workplace, visit Vital Baby.

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