A prayer room, meeting room and toilet are not breastfeeding rooms

National 4 minutes, 12 seconds


ONCE again, I drag myself to the prayer room with my instruments and begin my pumping ritual. As I start pumping milk for my four-month-old daughter, I take a deep breath from all the pressures of work and feel the milk start to flow.

Because, you know, apparently you can’t stress out when you’re expressing breast milk or supply goes low, or something like that.

Man, is it hard to breastfeed and pump when you’re a working woman or is it just me?

Like any other mother, I am trying to create the balance, to do my job and be respected by my peers but at the same time exclusively breastfeed my child for at least two years.

But it is a struggle. With my first child, I had to start mixing, a term used to describe having to mix breast milk with formula because my breast milk supply was so low. I was so depressed that I had to mix at that time, and I was only pumping about two ounces or less, which if you ask any Expressing Breastmilk Mommy (EBM), is not a lot.

But I did try. I committed myself to wake up late nights just to pump, even after I fed my child, followed nurses advice, and still could not pump a full tank.

I went to breastfeed my son at least until he was 10 months. It’s not two years, but I was still grateful I could last that long, even though I had to mix.

I am not alone it seems. I hear stories of my friends and female relatives telling me how they had to pump in toilets, prayers rooms, and find out schedules to see if meeting rooms would be in use just to keep up supplies for their babies.

This saddens me so, and as an EBM mother, I know how it feels to have to balance your pumps in one knee, or fear someone walking into the room, or worry about whether dust would get into your pumps or whether the unhygienic conditions would contaminate your milk.

I am so very grateful to the relevant authorities for promoting breastfeeding awareness. There have been numerous drives and baby-friendly initiatives encouraged by the government to promote breastfeeding and its health benefits.

I applaud the Ministry of Health for having to provide breastfeeding rooms for mommies too.

I am also grateful that His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam passed a law permitting 105 days maternity leave.

As I read through the United Nations policy on breastfeeding in their headquarters, I thought to myself, how wonderful would it be if my own nation included these policies. To make it possible for all sectors, both private and the government, to have a private and suitably furnished area, and a refrigerator for storing milk for all working mothers.

When infants don’t breastfeed as much as they should, they become prone to diseases. And when a baby is unwell, a female employee/mother is sometimes forced to take leave as well, which can also cut productivity.

I read a study by the Washington Business Group on health on breastfeeding support at work, that provides a table on the costs of childhood diseases. It shows that breastfeeding not only decreases the risk of ear infections by 60 per cent, they can also save about one or two days of medical leave for the employee.

And you get diseases like meningitis, where the employee would sometimes require three days to three weeks off work, which can be reduced when you breastfeed, the risk of the disease could decrease by four-fold as well as in severity.

So if you think about it, breastfeeding can actually cut cost effectively for an organisation in terms of productivity.

According to a Lifecare special report on breastfeeding from a legal and business viewpoint, breastfeeding is not a skill that comes easily.

The study especially sheds light on the importance on how working mothers need to constantly be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and require employer support as they transition into the work place.

I think I speak for some mommies, if not all EBMs, that it’s time for the relevant policymakers to think about the importance of breastfeeding at work.

Brunei is fast progressing as a nation, and with more females graduating from higher institutions by the year, we are looking to see more females in the work force.

A prayer room, meeting room and toilet are not breastfeeding rooms.

So let’s open up these breastfeeding rooms for the health of our mothers and children.

And to mothers who are still struggling to juggle between breastfeeding and work, know that your efforts are noticed.

Keep doing what you’re doing because what you’re pumping there is liquid gold. It doesn’t matter if you’re pumping less and less milk. A little really does go along way.

I know it’s hard ladies, but never ever give up.

The Brunei Times