Breast pumping at Work

Have you ever watched Netflix’s ‘Workin’ Moms’ – a serial about working mothers in Toronto, Canada? In the first episode, viewers meet one of the main characters, Kate, breast–pumping in a toilet cubicle to get some privacy. Are women in Indonesia facing the same workplace hardships for breast-pumping?

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 1.21.39 AMKate breast pumping inside toilet

In Indonesia, 45% of working mothers have stopped breastfeeding in their infant’s third month of age because they returned to work. Limited lactation facilities and support programs in workplaces and inadequate knowledge about how to do breast milk pumping and store breast milk are the main reasons for discontinuation.

One working mother in Jakarta said on social media, that she is unfortunate to work at a company that does not provide all working moms with adequate privacy to pump and store breast milk, and that she must produce this nutritious food for her baby on the toilet or in a mushola (prayer room). Another working mother in Jakarta reported on her social media that she must use a breast-pump sitting on a cardboard mat inside a warehouse.

Actually Indonesia already has laws and regulations to support breastfeeding mothers at work. Though the laws aim to increase breastfeeding, workplaces are not well regulated. A study conducted by Smeru Institute (2016) showed that only 39.39% of government institutions provide a lactation room. The Better Work Program in Indonesia report (2014) documented that 55 out of 67 garment factories surveyed in the Greater Jakarta area did not provide facilities, policies or procedures for breastfeeding breaks.

Besides the legal framework, in 2015, the Indonesian Ministry of Health also held a campaign called “Mari Dukung!, Menyusui dan Bekerja”, (Let’s Support Breastfeeding At Work) however no one executed or kept track of the campaign, so no results are available. If the Government is serious about making breast-pumping at work more effective, companies need to be provided with resources, incentives and easy-to-follow guidelines. Mothers need to be supported through work based groups, access to facilities and support from colleagues.

The fact that breast-pumping is difficult in the workplace suggests that Indonesian companies don’t yet realise the benefits to their bottom line when they stop making it hard for staff to do their jobs. And those breastfeeding need to feel supported, no matter what decision they ultimately make. 

“Breastfeeding is indeed a natural act. Yet, in this modern and competitive world, breastfeeding mothers, especially the ones who work outside the home, face many challenges.” Mia Sutanto, AIMI’s chairwoman

Editor: Yani Lauwoie, Nicholas Goodwin

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Ratnakanya Hadyani

Kanya is Communication Officer for Tulodo. She hopes to tell stories that hopeful and thought provoking within complex situation created by behavior change and innovation.

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