Breastfeeding stations a must, CS tells Kenyan employers
Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has directed that all employers should set up breastfeeding stations for mothers with newborn babies.
Speaking during an event to mark World Breastfeeding Week, the CS said her ministry will lead by example and set up a breastfeeding station at the headquarters in Nairobi.
“Breastfeeding is the healthiest start to life. It is a baby’s first vaccine and the best source of nutrition. It is a universal solution that lays the foundation for good health and survival for children and women,” she said.
According to UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from August 1-7, to highlight the critical importance of breastfeeding for children across the globe.
On Thursday, CS Kariuki noted that the move to set up breastfeeding stations is also in line with Health Act that was passed by MPs in June 2017.
Three years ago, a similar law was thwarted after a section of businessmen threatened to stop employing female employees if forced to implement the new rules.
The Bill however came back to Parliament through a motion by Murang’a Women Rep Sabina Chege in May 2017 and was passed a month later.
In the new law, employers are expected to provide a clean room equipped with a refrigerator to store breastmilk, a comfortable chair and an area for changing the baby.
They are also required to provide the mothers with an approximated 40-minute break every four hours to facilitate breastfeeding.
In Kenya, few companies provide female employees with breastfeeding stations which often leads to them quitting the workforce or stopping breastfeeding altogether.
The companies with breastfeeding stations include Safaricom, Kenya Women Microfinance Bank, Nestle, Mabati Rolling Mills, International Medical Corps and Kenya Red Cross.
Others are World Vision, ICRAF, EKA Hotels, Seven Seas Technologies, Isuzu East Africa, Davis & Shirtliff among others.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), it is recommended that a baby is exclusively fed on breastmilk until they are at least 6 months of age.
“Early and exclusive breastfeeding helps children survive, but it also supports healthy brain development, improves cognitive performance and is associated with better educational achievement at age 5.
“Breastfeeding is the foundation of good nutrition and protects children against disease. In this way, breastfeeding allows all children to thrive and develop to their full potential,” UNICEF says.
Additional reporting by Rachel Ombaka