Alice Mumpi, an accountant with one of the big pharmacies in the city centre, gave birth to her first-born December last year.
After her three months maternity leave, she had to return to work. But her heart is never fully at work, she is always thinking about her baby she always leaves at home under the care of the house help.
“She is my first baby. I keep on thinking whether she is crying or not, whether she is hungry or not. My heart cannot settle and yet I cannot carry her with me to work,” she says.
Mumpi is lucky that her boss allowed her to leave work at 3pm, two hours earlier than her usual time to go and feed her baby.
Mumpi is one of hundreds of working mothers who find themselves restless at work because they leave their little ones at home and thus cannot breastfeed their babies exclusively.
World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend Exclusive Breast Feeding as the most ideal food for infants in their first six months as it reduces infant morbidity.
In Uganda Exclusive Breastfeeding among babies is estimated at 66% in the general population – according to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey, 2016 – lower than national target of 80 percent.
A study titledMaking exclusive breastfeeding a reality in formal workplaces in Kampala Uganda: Exploring options for action to promote child health aimed at exploring existing initiatives, support needs and perceptions regarding exclusive breastfeeding promotion in Kampala city shows that only 21 percent mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies.
The study was conducted between July and September 2020 targeting 70 selected agencies in Uganda.
According to the findings, only 21% mothers exclusively breastfed their babies, most of whom worked in workplaces that had breastfeeding policies.
Some mothers interviewed said that they feared losing shape due to breastfeeding exclusively while others said there is stigma around expressing breast milk.
In an interview, Dr. Flavia Namiiro, one of the researchers, said that employers should improve the working environment for mothers to help improve breastfeeding.
“These mothers actually know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding but their workplaces don’t have places where the mothers can breastfeed from. Worse still, some employers wont even consider reducing working hours so that the mothers can have more time with their babies,” she said.
Another researcher Dr. Joseph Rujumba said that the country risked losing a healthy workforce if mothers don’t breastfeed exclusively.
“Breastmilk adds a lot of nutrition to the children. And therefore, when mothers fail to breastfeed it means that the kids will be stunted, sickly, and others will die because of malnutrition and this means that the country is likely to face a workforce loss.”
Amuriat Bernard, the assistant Commissioner, labour inspectorate in the ministry of gender and labor development said that there are talks in the ministry to consider an increase of maternity and paternity leave.
“We are following the international labor organization guidelines as much as we have our internal ones. It will take sometime to improve this situation but be sure that we shall address these issues raised.”he said.