Launch of a lactation room at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs

PHNOM PENH: The preliminary results of the Cambodia demographic health survey indicated that only 51% of children aged 0-5 months are exclusively breastfed, whereas, in 2014, 65% were exclusively breastfeeding, showing a decline. In addition, only 51% of 6-23-months old children met the minimum requirement for dietary diversity. Highlighting the importance of why we are here today- and why establishing lactation rooms and promoting healthy diets for mother and child is important.

In Cambodia, the labour law under article 186 states that workplaces with 100 female employees require a lactation room and a daycare. The lack of such rooms can be a barrier for women to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue breastfeeding children up to 2 years and beyond. Therefore, the mother can be more prone to shift from breastfeeding to using breast milk-substitute after starting working, while others may take care of the children.

A second barrier new mothers might face is that today women have three months of maternity leave, with 50% of their salaries, making it economically difficult for mothers to extend their maternity leave to breastfeed their children. The nutrition and lactation room at workplaces can support women to overcome the barriers that mothers face to breastfeeding their babies for as long as they wish. However, the 3-month maternity leave is a challenge, and advocating for increasing maternity leave and increasing the payment from 50% to 100% of their salaries, is desirable as a measure for Cambodia to reach its SDG goals by 2030.

The women and employees spend most of their awake time at work and outside the home. Therefore, workplaces have become an important actors in maternal and child nutrition and the general health of their employees. However, forerunners are always needed to start and show the importance of supporting women.

Breastfeeding is a way for mothers to bond with their babies, especially when she starts spending most of their time away from home after returning to work. Breastfeeding and the bond between mother and child are essential for children’s development and growth at the early stages of a child’s life. Breastfeeding also provides health benefits for the mother, the environment, and the economic situation, for example breastfeeding mothers recover quicker and easier from childbirth.

Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. May reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and cholesterol. Delay in mothers’ return of menstrual period, which can help extend the time between pregnancies. Breastmilk is less expensive than breastmilk-substitute and saves time breastfeeding is good for the environment, sincere there is no need for bottles and cans.

The nutrition and lactation rooms benefit not only the working women – the mother but also the health and development of the child and the employer and the whole work team – and thus the country’s development, growth, and economy.

Infant and child nutrition is the mother’s responsibility and the whole family’s responsibility. Women need encouragement from their partners, families, supervisors, employees, and work peers to ensure their nutritional status and encourage them to breastfeed their babies.

Photo: Helen Keller International-Cambodia