Burma

Myanmar Govt Pushing At-Work Lactation Rooms for Nursing Mothers

By Zue Zue 8 August 2019

YANGON—The Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports is designing a policy that will provide lactation rooms for nursing mothers at the workplace.

While female civil servants are entitled to six months of maternity leave, female employees in the private sector only enjoy 14 weeks, leaving them unable to sustain exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), said Dr. Lwin Mar Hlaing, director of the Public Health Department.

“While some employers have already arranged nursing rooms for breastfeeding mothers at the workplace, most employees lack such facilities, so we are designing a policy to provide nursing rooms at work,” she said.

The government increased maternity leave for civil servants to six months in 2014 but, Dr. Lwin Mar Hlaing said, “we’ve set a target of enabling the same length of maternity leave for both civil servants and private employees sometime in the future. All the mothers are the same. They have to breastfeed their children.”

She said the ministry is currently in the process of identifying lactation room requirements.

For civil servants, maternity leave is paid, but that might be different for private employees, she said.

“It will take time to adopt a policy. Our ministry will set the example by providing lactation rooms for civil servants, and we are already taking steps to educate private corporations about the benefits of nursing rooms,” she said.

Ma Pa Pa, a Tamwe Township resident that works at a private media outlet, said she received three months of maternity leave and returned to work when her baby was over two months old. During working days she pumped breastmilk for her baby in the morning and in the afternoon had the baby formula fed.

“I know that I have to exclusively breastfeed for six months, but I have to work, so I had to ask the doctor which formula brand is best. The doctor doesn’t want me to feed my baby with formula milk, but I have to return to work. In fact, I want to stay with my baby,” said Ma Pa Pa.

The provision of lactation rooms will also help reduce staff turnover rates, she said.

According to the Health Department, the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for six months has become more common in Myanmar over the past ten years thanks awareness campaigns.

In fiscal 2009-10, only 24 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed for six months while in fiscal 2015-16 that rate was more than double, at 51 percent.

“In Myanmar, the majority of mothers breastfeed their babies, but then, many of them do not strictly do so exclusively—that is, having the infant receive only breast milk and no additional food or liquid,” said Dr. Lwin Mar Hlaing.

She said that breastmilk is better than any popular brand of formula in terms of immunity and brain development.

In Myanmar, the month of August is designated as breastfeeding awareness month, part of a public awareness campaign meant to educate mothers about breastfeeding and nourishment, with government-organized education campaigns and mass activities about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for six months, along with contests for nursing mothers run throughout the month.

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