Lactation education

Providing more lactation rooms and paid breastfeeding breaks for working mothers: Louis Ng

SINGAPORE – Mr. Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) has called for buildings containing offices and located in business parks to have more breastfeeding rooms and for working mothers to have paid breastfeeding breaks.

Citing a local survey of around 970 people interviewed by Singapore’s Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group this year, Mr Ng told Parliament on Tuesday August 2 that eight out of 10 working mothers said that one of the things they they needed most was a lactation room.

The same survey found that expressing challenges at work are one of the top three reasons mothers stop breastfeeding.

In his adjournment motion, Mr Ng said, “Dedicated lactation rooms are the best way to facilitate breastfeeding. Today, too many mothers are forced to use undignified spaces such as toilets or storage rooms. stress can prevent mothers from expressing milk.”

Currently, the Ministry of National Development requires a lactation room for buildings with a gross floor area of ​​10,000 m² or more.

Mr. Ng proposed that the government lower this threshold so that more buildings are required to have such a room.

Larger buildings with higher gross floor area should also have more than one lactation room, he said.

He also proposed that lactation interruptions be legislated. Two-thirds of working mothers in the survey he referred to said they had no time at work to express their milk. On average, a milk expression session lasts 20 to 30 minutes.

Singapore is among the minority of countries that do not offer paid lactation breaks, he said, citing a 2020 report by the International Baby Food Action Network of 97 countries which found that 73% of between them had laws for such breaks.

“Legislating paid lactation breaks can spark a broader conversation about how milk expression can be normalized and supported in the workplace,” he said, and it’s not mutually exclusive with confidence building and employer encouragement.

While some might say flexible working arrangements help nursing mothers, working from home isn’t an option for everyone, and many mothers have returned to the office in recent months, he added. .

Acknowledging the progress made over the years, Mr Ng said various ministries and organizations have done more to support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace.

He noted that, based on local studies, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months increased from 1% in 2011 to 38.2% in 2019.

Yet 20% of working-age women are not in the labor force, he said, and more can be done to ease the transition of those who are breastfeeding into the workforce.

A more inclusive workplace with greater support for this group of mothers could make it easier for them to reintegrate or stay in work, he added.