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Lack of maternity leave an obstacle to breastfeeding mothers

DUBAI // A lack of maternity leave is the biggest obstacle faced by mothers who want to extend breastfeeding, with most women having to return to work a short time after giving birth.

Lily Kandalaft, founder of Malaak, a nursing and childcare support service, said many women were aware of the benefits of breastfeeding to themselves and their baby, but bemoaned the lack of support.

“Maternity leave of 45 days makes it challenging because mothers need to manage ways to continue breastfeeding while fulfilling their commitments at work,” she said, meaning many women struggle beyond six months.

“A lot find it difficult to keep up the work schedule and pumping at the same time, because most work environments are not conducive to breastfeeding.”

Sandy Joy-Rubin was able to breastfeed her first child until the age of two because she was able to stay at home and be a full-time mother.

“Maternity leave is short and that’s not really compatible with breastfeeding past a certain time frame. I’m lucky enough to be home so my reality is very different from someone who has gone back to work six weeks post-partum.

“My goal was two years and we made it to two years and four months. I felt in my heart that I wanted to breastfeed, and I ­really feel that human milk is the best for human babies.” The benefits of breastfeeding, such as decreasing the chances of postnatal depression and breast cancer in mothers, made it an obvious choice, Ms Joy-Rubin said. “The benefits to baby are massive, and too long to list.

“But it’s difficult because as a new mother you are very isolated, unless you actively seek out other new mothers, which in the first two weeks is almost impossible and when you are really establishing breastfeeding.”

Candice Ford is mother to seven-week-old Raef. She works as a fitness coach and is already back to work part-time.

“Raef takes only breast milk, but I have to pump so that my husband can give him a bottle when I work. I would love to breastfeed, but I feel that bottle feeding breast milk a few times a week is a great compromise.”

She said there was little advice on the process from healthcare professionals.

“I took a hypnobirthing class and read a few books when I was pregnant plus working in the health and fitness industry gave me a greater awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. Had I not done my own research I would have had little to no breastfeeding knowledge.”

mswan@thenational.ae


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