Breastfeeding: A Source of Life
It is important to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding, position it as a priority on the health policy agenda, promote the collaboration among individuals and sectors involved, and develop support campaigns. The World Health Organization recommends an exclusive diet of breast milk in the first six months of life. This benefits the newborn and mother alike: it prevents malnutrition, reduces the likelihood of infectious illnesses, and ensures a safe diet. In the mother, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Despite the benefits, an average of only 14.4% of newborns are breastfed in Mexico the first six months of life, one of the lowest averages in Latin America. Aside from a lack of information, one of the main reasons for breastfeeding cessation is returning to the job market after giving birth. Unfortunately, there is insufficient support for working mothers. The increasing downturn of mothers breastfeeding their children should be approached as a public health issue.
It is imperative that corporate policies foment women’s professional development in every stage of their lives and promote a balance between their work and personal lives. Women represent a source of talent and potential growth for the private sector. Companies don’t have to wait for new legislation to support the integral development of women. Supporting women is not only fair; it’s also good business.
In the private sector, four concrete actions can be implemented to encourage breastfeeding. First, granting and upholding maternity leave so that women can adequately care for their newborns without the fear of losing their jobs. Taking maternity leave should not imply risks. Second, daycare should be available within or close to the workplace, facilitating women’s professional reinsertion and continued care for their children, who can be breastfed when necessary. Third, the workplace should offer breastfeeding facilities such as private rooms with refrigerators so that women can extract and store their milk under optimal conditions and feed their children. Fourth, offering working mothers flextime and home office scheduling in which results are a priority, not time spent at an office desk.
Breastfeeding the first six months of life, later combining breast milk with solid foods, lays the foundation for better physical, emotional, and mental health in children. Breast milk is a source of life and helps to establish a beautiful bond between mother and child. Becoming a mother should not be an obstacle to pursuing one’s professional career or holding a leadership position, nor should it imply women renouncing their right to breastfeed their children.