Breast is Best

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2006 National Women's Conference
27 October 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference notes and welcomes the drive to promote breastfeeding and to offer support to women who choose to breast feed. The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-known and the WHO recommends that babies are exclusively breast fed for the first six months. However, this increasingly means that the mother has returned to work before the baby has been weaned and needs to be able to express milk at work. This means that the mother will require access to a fridge, store and sterilise her breast pump and somewhere comfortable, warm and secure to express milk. This should ideally be as close to their main area of work as possible to minimise disruption to their working day. Employers, with pressure from UNISON and other unions, have been providing rooms and facilities for mothers to express and store their breast milk in privacy. However, Conference notes with concern that this is still not a universal occurrence and more still needs to be done to ensure working mothers have access to appropriate facilities.

Rates of breastfeeding are still low and despite campaigns to promote breastfeeding in public as a normal occurrence there is still the perception by a core section of the public that breastfeeding is something to be done only behind closed doors. In Scotland, the Breastfeeding etc. (Scotland) Act gained royal assent in January 2005. The Act guarantees the right of children to be breast fed, or bottled fed, in public places and if the owner of the premises stops this from happening they could be fined up to £2,500.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to:

1)work with regional women’s committees and service groups to audit workplaces to find out the level of provision of facilities for working mothers to express milk in comfort;

2)work to produce materials that highlight the benefit of breastfeeding and what branches can do to support their members and distribute this to branches. This should also include information on the need for an appropriate risk assessment to be carried out on the mother’s return to work;

3)work with the National Executive Council to lobby Westminster to ensure a similar bill is introduced in England;

4)report back to the 2007 Conference on progress;

5)re-affirm our support for the Baby Milk Action campaign and work to ensure that the union continues to resource this.