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Monday, May 11, 2009

Setting up a Lactation Program at Work, The Beginnings

When Naima was almost 7 months old, I got a phone call from my former boss who told me that her dad needed a lawyer in his staff. Since the workplace was near my home, she thought of me and asked me if I was already working. At this time, I was wrapping up a research work I was doing for a counsel of a multilateral development finance institution and was going to start looking for a full-time job -- perfect timing!
During the interview, I informed the boss-to-be that I was still nursing Naima and would be pumping at work so I would be looking for a private room or be going out on pumping breaks. He pointed me to his conference room, which was separated from his main office by a full sliding door and asked if that was good. It was perfect! I could close the sliding door during the pumping times. Our office was self-contained and had our own refrigerator -- so I had no worries about how to store my milk.

I work at a government financial institution (GFI) and I am one of the lucky ones who have my own private place to pump. After a couple of months, I met with a nursing mom who had to pump in the stockrooom. Our GFI's Wellness Program had recently hired a wellness expert who was a nutritionist. She organized a meeting with breastfeeding mothers -- initially attended by 3 mothers (me included!). A few months after, the Wellness Program was able to better prepare and formally organize a series of "Breastfeeding and Beyond" classes. One important project to be tackled was the establishment of lactation rooms.
During the first "Breastfeeding and Beyond" class, I met up with a number of breastfeeding moms. During that class, the wellness consultant basically just repeated what she discussed during the informal meeting we had with the 2 other moms. Since she was a nutritionist, she focused on indigenous foods and showcased her various TV appearances. But one good thing that came from that class is that breastfeeding moms got connected.
The second class was a lot better since Nanay Ines of Arugaan was on hand to give a full lecture (similar to the lecture she gave at the LATCH peer counselor training). Nanay Ines is very knowledgeable and definitely knows what she is talking about. I didn't attend the 3rd class in the series which was focused on the xxxx child - parenting?.
As a result of these classes, I hooked up with other nursing mom-employees. We recognized that there was an urgent and real need to establish lactation rooms. Some moms pumped in toilets, some in conference rooms and others in stock/supplies rooms -- only to be disturbed by officemates who need to get materials from these rooms.
After some discussions, we found out that a lactation room had previously been proposed by F, an employee who even got an award for her idea. Unfortunately, nothing came out of it and she has since weaned her baby. The currently nursing moms had been writing individual letters to the HR and sector heads to no avail. I, myself, wrote to the head of our medical department -- also to no avail. We realized that we had to band together as one collective voice to make a difference.
A, from our learning institute, organized a meeting where she bravely showed the nursing moms how to hand express milk. We shared resources and talked about how to get started with our GFI's lactation program. We are currently in the process of starting and setting up a lactation program. I think that this will be a long process but hope that this will come into fruition before my next baby :) This is an attempt to document our efforts, especially since lactation programs are generally unheard of in the Philippine workplace.

Other Posts in this Series:
The Beginnings

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