Family life

Breastfeeding moms to get paid breaks?: UK report

As UK politicians call for paid breastfeeding breaks, business leaders claim women would be less successful in their careers.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I couldn’t have asked for a better back-to-work environment after my maternity leave. I worked in a nearly all-female office and there were three of us who were due around the same time. Recognizing the benefits of nearby child care for her staff, our employer created an in-office daycare. The nanny’s salary was split between our employer and the other moms, making it an affordable alternative to the difficult-to-secure daycare spaces in Winnipeg. In my opinion, the most important benefit of this service was that I was able to continue breastfeeding my son throughout the day.

Breastfeeding advocates like myself dream of a world where extended nursing is normalized, which is why I was excited to read a headline last week in The Telegraph stating that lawmakers in the UK were calling for employers to provide mothers paid breaks to breastfeed. With rates among the lowest in the world (only half of British mothers nurse beyond six weeks), the new law could have a positive impact on overall breastfeeding rates and children’s health. Also included in the proposed changes were facilities to pump and store breast milk. The new recommendations came from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood.

Business leaders were strongly opposed, saying the changes could cost up to £2.5bn and “make it harder for women to succeed in their careers.” The Confederation of British Industry is one of the most vocal critics, saying the law would not help new mothers or businesses. “The best way to do this is for mums to have an open conversation about their needs on returning to work,” remarked Lena Levy, CBI’s Head of Labour Market Policy. “A legislative approach is not the right solution.”

Comments from readers on The Telegraph website are just as disheartening and—dare I say—disrespectful:

If a mother gives the care of her child to somebody else then that includes the feeding of the child along with care and contact with the child. The mother cannot have it both ways. She either looks after the child full time or gives the child to an agency to see to all its needs while the mother pursues her more lucrative career. —lizzydripping

Coming soon—the Mummycare Office Papoose, so mummy can swing the offspring onto her back and work the day away (except for periodic baps-out breaks for baby and crappy nappy maintenance)… It will also add considerably to the rich tapestry of office odours rediscovered since the smoking ban. —mybackyard

What bothers me most about the opposition is that motherhood and being a productive employee are seen as incompatible, feeding into the pressure that moms need to have it all in order to be happy. After I had my children, my idea of success changed and it wasn’t tied directly to my salary and job title. Success meant working with an employer that valued both me and my children. It could be argued that there was no direct benefit to my boss in opening up a daycare for her staff—she didn’t have children and the renovation costs required to create a soundproof daycare space for our babies was expensive. But what our employer did benefit from were employees who were incredibly productive, less stressed and happier—direct payoffs from what may have been seen as an unnecessary expense. And it’s more insight than UK business leaders appear to have on the subject.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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