The influence of the workplace environment on breastfeeding practices of working mothers returning to work : a case study of two companies in KwaZulu-Natal
MetadataShow full item record
Purpose: Breastfeeding is a key child survival strategy important for the long-term health of both the mother and child. The number of women in paid employment has increased exponentially, yet very few of these women continue breastfeeding as recommended by the World Health Organisation. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the factors affecting breastfeeding practices in the workplace. Objectives of the study are to: 1: Describe managers’ attitudes to and knowledge about providing breastfeeding support. 2: Identify mothers’ attitudes towards breastfeeding and the workplace environment. 3: Describe the practices of the breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. 4: Identify factors that influence breastfeeding practices within the workplace environment Method The theoretical frameworks adopted were the Situation- Specific Theory of Breastfeeding and the BASNEF model. The frameworks together with the literature review provided the background which informed this study. The research was a case study of two multi -national companies in Durban, KwaZulu Natal; participants were mothers and managers in the companies. Purposive sampling was used for selecting eight women who participated in the focus groups, two follow up interviews were conducted and five managers were interviewed. Data collection techniques also included a reflexive journal and field observation. After a thorough review of the data, the main themes which emerged were used to guide the discussion and answer the objectives of the study. Results The two companies reflected a scenario of pressures in the workplace environment affecting women’s choices regarding combining work and breastfeeding; societal pressures were dictating acceptable behaviour. Breastfeeding was not a priority for employers, no breastfeeding policy existed. Breastfeeding mothers were isolated and employers and employees were not engaging on the issue. Conclusions and Recommendations Simple enabling factors within the workplace would allow mothers, their infants and employers to enjoy the benefits of supporting breastfeeding in the workplace; this would be a win-win situation. Government, non-governmental organisations and society have a responsibility to overtly protect, support and promote breastfeeding in society and in the workplace.