Workplace support for breastfeeding mothers at APHRC

August 6, 2019

By Florence Sipalla, communications manager, APHRC

APHRC prides itself as a research center committed to transforming lives in Africa. The Center demonstrates the commitment by not only conducting research on breastfeeding and nutrition but also taking steps to empower new mothers to breastfeed optimally. In line with the Kenya Health Act, 2017 (section 71 & 72), the Center provides a private, equipped lactation room for lactating mothers.

“Since I returned to work after maternity leave, I have been using the lactation room to express milk in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening. The room also has a freezer where I can store the milk,” says Mercy Ndwiga, a program officer with the Research Capacity Strengthening Division. Mercy is a proud mother of a six-month-old daughter whom she has exclusively breastfed. “Twelve years ago, when I had my first child, such facilities did not exist. I had to express milk in the washroom sink,” laments Mercy who was forced to wean her then three-month-old baby when she returned to work.

An image of the lactation room at the Center.

Speaking on the Center’s proactive decision to lend a helping hand to working mothers, Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, Executive Director, APHRC said: “We support new mothers to breastfeed by offering flexi-time, providing a room for pumping and storing breast milk and paying for childcare when traveling with an infant. “The lactation room makes it easy to express milk and ensures that my 10-month-old baby enjoys sufficient amounts of breast milk daily since I returned to work seven months ago.”┬áBefore the establishment of the lactation room at the Center, Catherine had a screen installed on her glass walls for privacy as she expressed milk. She now uses the lactation room and enjoys the privacy it provides. She has also found a place to bond with other working mothers. “We talk about our babies, sleep patterns, and give each other advice. APHRC mothers can access the room at any time. It is basic but quite helpful,” she adds.

Gaye Agesa, program manager, Immunization Advocacy Initiative is a beneficiary of the childcare provision for staff traveling with infants. “I take my baby with me when I travel, and the organization supports nanny care.” The Center provides travel support until the baby is one year while flexi-time applies until the child is six months old.

The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), whose secretariat is hosted at APHRC, also provides support for women fellows allowing them to juggle their family commitments with their academic pursuits. To enable them to attend a mandatory month-long joint seminar, CARTA provides airfare, travel insurance, accommodation, meals for breastfeeding mothers, and their childminders for infants under 14 months old. So far, CARTA has provided this support for 20 fellows.

In line with this year’s theme for breastfeeding week, “Empower parents: Enable breastfeeding,” Dr. Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, urged employers to provide an enabling environment for working mums to breastfeed optimally. “Women should not be forced to choose between their careers and exclusive breastfeeding; they should be supported to do both.” Elizabeth is a breastfeeding champion and research scientist at APHRC.