As part of the world breastfeeding week celebrations, Nestlé Start Healthy Stay Healthy launched a breastfeeding campaign themed ‘Breastfeeding, it takes all of us’ by holding roundtable discussions with key stakeholders to discuss ways in which they could assist mothers breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and beyond.
The stakeholders comprising of Hon. Sabina Chege, the Women Representative of Murang’a County, Mary Mathenge, a Lactation Manager at Aga Khan Hospital, Dr. Jacqueline Kitulu, Chair of Kenya Medical Association and Janet Mbugua known for championing mothers’ rights among others deliberated on how policy makers, Health Care Professionals, employers and family can collectively support mothers by providing a conducive environment for breastfeeding.
Hon. Sabina Chege, the Women Representative of Murang’a County commended Nestlé for leading the way in providing a conducive environment for Women at the workplace and called on all companies to follow suit.
She added that the recent law passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the president directing companies to provide nursing stations for lactating, working women should also be a wake up to all companies to provide maximum support for mothers while at work. The law, she said, provides a legal framework that greatly saves many mothers from the embarrassments like of having to breastfeed in public or in toilets.
Dr. Kitulu reiterated that such initiatives help address some of the factors that have for long affected the initiation and continued success of exclusive breastfeeding. These include lack of facilities and adequate demonstrative support to enable combining breastfeeding and work, workplace policies, legislative gaps etc.
She went on to give statistics highlighting that 61 percent of mothers today exclusively breastfeed which is a significant increase from 37 percent 3 years ago which she owes to more flexible policies at workplaces and increased awareness on the benefits.
Nestlé Equatorial Africa Region head of Human Resource, Ms. Fridah Muchina said that “at Nestlé, we know and believe that breast milk is the best nutrition for babies. We support the World Health Organization’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and beyond and aslo adhere to the Kenya Breastmilk Substitute Act. ”
In support of this, Nestlé offers a generous Maternity Protection Policy for its employees worldwide that is estimated to be one of the most progressive programmes of its kind in the industry.
“Our policy gives employees a minimum of 16 weeks paid maternity leaves with the right to extend the leave up to six months. The policy is applicable to all primary caregivers of newborns, including male employees and adoptive parents,” said Ms. Muchina.
In addition, she added that “here in Kenya we now have two breastfeeding rooms, one at our Nestlé Kenya Factory plus the new one at the Nestlé Equatorial Africa Region headquarters. Nestlé Equatorial Africa Region (Nestlé EAR), oversees the company’s operations in over 20 countries in Africa. Globally, Nestlé currently has more than 190 breastfeeding rooms across its global working facilities,”
Nestlé also runs an educative program called Start Healthy Stay Healthy for parents and caregivers to promote healthy nutrition in the crucial first 1000 days. It provides science-proven nutrition education services to establish good nutrition and feeding practices in the First 1000 Days – including maternal nutrition during pregnancy, and the promotion of breastfeeding as the best start in life.
For years now, Nestlé has been at the forefront in supporting and promoting awareness of the need for exclusive breastfeeding as strongly advised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The company has for the past two years hosted Health Care Professionals, including nurses and midwives and opinion leaders, for breastfeeding and scientific conferences organized by Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (an independent, non-profit making organisation and the non-commercial arm of Nestlé), in support of the World Breastfeeding Week event held from 1st to 7th of August every year.
Exclusive breastfeeding, according to WHO, helps reduces infant mortality from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia and also contributes to the health and well-being of mothers.
Nestlé has 271 employees in Kenya and 99 are women in various capacities.