Sidra Survey Highlights Need for Increased Employer Support for Working Mothers

Sidra Medical and Research Center (Sidra) today announced the results from a survey conducted to identify the challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers particularly those returning to work. The survey polled more than 450 mothers targeting both nationals and expatriates working across the private and government sectors in Qatar.

A key finding from the survey was that over 50 per cent of the mothers cited that returning to work was the main reason why they stopped breastfeeding their children. A further 39 per cent stated that they didn’t have the time to breastfeed regularly due to busy work schedules. Over 50 per cent found it difficult to work and maintain breastfeeding particularly due to lack of facilities within the workplace to pump.

Another point to come out of the survey was that the majority of the mothers felt that while the one-hour reduction in working hours was beneficial, the time was not sufficient to breastfeed – particularly if they had a heavy workload. Qatar labour law states that the maternity leave should be 50 working days and mothers can leave their workplace an hour early for a period of up to one year. Stress at work or not being able to feed their babies on time was another factor that prevented these mothers from wanting to continue breastfeeding – as they believed it affected milk flow.

Eman Nasralla, Community Relations and Development Manager at Sidra, whose team conducted the research said, “Our survey was developed to support a pledge that Sidra had undertaken in recognition of World Breastfeeding Week which falls from 1-7 August every year. This year the World Breastfeeding Week Association (WABA) made a call for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work.  We wanted to get a better understanding of some of the challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers going back to work in Qatar and whether these challenges lead to reducing or stopping breastfeeding all together. We also wanted to identify the measures that we as an employer needed to consider in order to make the transition back to workplace smoother for our working mothers.”

Several recommendations to come out of the survey by the mothers included:

Reducing the working day by up to three hours or providing more flexible schedules. This would allow enough time for mothers to either come in later or leave work earlier so that they can maintain regular breastfeeding and increased bonding time with their babies.
Being able to work from home a few days a week.
Having nurseries within or very close to the workplace – allowing the mothers easier and faster access to their babies during feed times and an opportunity to bond with their babies as often as possible.
Providing an appropriate room to breastfeed or pump as well as access to amenities to safely store breast milk.
The option of extending maternity leave up to one year similar to that followed by other European countries. For example, some countries in Europe offer three months full pay followed by three months of half pay and being able to take an additional six months of unpaid leave.
To allow visit visas to be extended for family members of expatriates – enabling mothers to entrust the care of their young child to a family member rather than a nanny.

Another finding from the survey was that over 90 per cent of women indicated that they were aware of the importance of breastfeeding –with more than 50 per cent stating that they breastfed because it was beneficial for the child and the mother.

“It was encouraging to see that more women are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding from our survey. In fact, Qatar’s National Health Strategy is focusing on developing an integrated national program for maternal and newborn health which includes promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. However for working mothers to continue breastfeeding the most important step is to have a supportive network in place. This network doesn’t just apply to family and friends – peers, supervisors and employers play a key role too. The findings from the survey were very useful for us and we are working with our HR and occupational health teams to consider the best environment and support systems for our own working mothers here at Sidra,” concluded Ms. Nasralla.