12 Attributes of a Child-Friendly Workplace (3)

Welcome to my page today. Yesterday, I declared a sabbatical. It was one of the days when I was compelled by the force of nature to step hard on my brake pedal and get some much needed rest. I struggled not to lift a finger since the day broke. I have fought to rest my head in the midst of one and a million things, which are fighting doggedly to rent a space in my small head. It is often a battle for me to step back and lay my head to rest. This very thing, I am persuaded I have to do if I must take this mandate of Social Empowerment Advocacy to its God-ordained conclusion. Someone once said, God sent me a message and gave me a horse. If I kill the house, how will I deliver the message? He later said, the horse is my body. If I were in a place of worship, I would have told you to tell your neighbour, ‘take it easy with yourself.’

Permit me to share with you today the 2nd Attributes of a Child-Friendly Workplace: adequate maternity leave for women. Maternity leave is a business/ Industrial Relations and Human Resource term referring to a period of paid absence from work, to which a woman is entitled during the months immediately before and after childbirth.  Presently it is the general practice for women to be given 3 months maternity leave in Nigeria. In Britain, it is 6 months. A child-friendly workplace does not only give maternity leave; it gives adequate maternity leave.

While we must salute the workplace which gives 3 months maternity leave, I want to submit that 3 months may not be adequate maternity leave. I think the adequate maternity leave should be 6 months. I think one reason why I support the idea of 6 months maternity leave is breastfeeding. What is breastfeeding? It is ‘the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts (i.e., via lactation) rather than from a baby bottle or other container.’

World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breast feeding for 6 months and supplemented breast feeding for an additional 1 year, 6 months or more. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to feeding the child with the breast milk without the addition of infant formula or solid food. There are few exceptions to breastfeeding, such as when the mother is taking certain drugs or is infected with HIV virus, or has active untreated tuberculosis.

The benefits of breast feeding to mother and child cannot be overemphasised. Breastfeeding promotes health and helps to prevent disease. Artificial feeding is associated with more deaths from diarrhea in infants in both developing and developed countries. Experts agree that breastfeeding is beneficial, and have concerns about artificial formulas. Not all the properties of breast milk are understood, but its nutrient content is relatively stable. Breast milk is made from nutrients in the mother’s bloodstream and bodily stores. Breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby’s growth and development. It has been found that because breastfeeding uses an average of 500 calories a day it helps the mother lose weight after giving birth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, research shows that breastfeeding provides advantages with regard to general health, growth, and development while significantly decreasing risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases including lower respiratory infection, ear infections, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection, and necrotizing enterocolitis. They state that there are a number of studies that show a possible protective effect of breast milk feeding against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin- dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases, digestive diseases, and a possible enhancement of cognitive development.

While experts do not agree on how long supplementary breastfeeding should be there seems to be a consensus on the 6 months duration of exclusive breastfeeding. How then does a mother breastfeed the child exclusively if she has to resume work after 3 months?  I guess this is why some medical experts in Nigeria have recently been advocating for 6 months compulsory maternity leave for nursing mothers to enable them to adequately breastfeed their children. Experts have insisted that Nigeria has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world as statistics show that 1500 under five children die yearly in Nigeria.

It is important to note that that a member of the government delegation to the 98th International Labour Conference held in Geneva in 2009 informed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has extended maternity leave from 12 weeks to 16 weeks for all female federal employees irrespective of their marital status and the number of babies in accordance with Maternity Protection Convention, 2000. It is also important to note that Nigeria is yet to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention.

Though the foregoing is a sign of improvement, it is important to note that the 16 weeks maternity leave does not apply in the private sector as at today.  Please note that the advocacy for the foregoing is without prejudice to the fact that I know that the idea of 6 months maternity leave may not be an easy pill to swallow, but it is sacrifice we must make for the best interest of the child.

I best to rest my case here. . I urge you friends, Think the Child, Think Today, Think the Future. Have an INSPIRED day.

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