When Priti N, 29, had a baby a year ago, she struggled to breastfeed owing to medical complications. As days went by, the situation worsened and she developed stress-induced anxiety. Eventually, the baby was fed formula milk.
Doctors say the lack of training and an inadequate support system for working mothers has affected breastfeeding practices – crucial for a child’s all-round development. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to August 7.
“For a first-time mother, the process is stressful and tiring. Despite trying hard to manage everything, it becomes impossible, and eventually the baby is put on an external feed,” said Priti, who quit her job last month.
As per the Maternity Benefits Act, women get a minimum of three months paid maternity leave. Most organisations also allow women to take three additional months of unpaid leave. However, human resource experts say mothers often need organisational support of up to one to two years – till the time a child is weaned. Irregular breastfeeding has negative consequences, both for the mother and the baby. “It is a vicious cycle. If mothers are unable to breastfeed regularly, their milk supply decreases,” said Dr Rajashree Katke, superintendent, Cama Hospital, Fort.
According to a survey on working mothers, only 40% of women who want to return to their jobs after giving birth manage to get a full-time job. Companies lose almost 85% of mid-level and senior women executives as they do not return to work after giving birth.
“Women are insecure about taking long breaks because it might affect their careers. At the same time, they are worried about not being good mothers,” said Dr Anjali Talwalkar, consultant gynaecologist, Kohinoor Hospital, Kurla.
Lactation consultants advise meticulous planning for working mothers to avoid facing problems when breastfeeding. “It might initially be cumbersome, but with proper discipline and training, working mothers should be able to breastfeed for a long duration,” said Effath Yasmin, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.