Breastfeeding as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is the most cost-effective way to reduce childhood morbidity such as obesity, hypertension and gastroenteritis, as well as mortality. However, although breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival, the WHO reports that fewer than half of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed. ALSO READ: Rwanda surpasses global exclusive breastfeeding average The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2019-2020 shows that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months without any other formula decreased from 87.3 per cent in 2015 to 80.9 per cent in 2020. ALSO READ: What exclusive breastfeeding means to both mother and child It is for this reason that the Ministry of Gender and Family promotion in partnership with UNICEF, National Child Development Agency, Kigali of City, and the Ministry of Public Service and Labour launched the breastfeeding week this month to promote actions that can be taken to help ensure breastfeeding works for all women who work, wherever they work. Under the theme, “Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!” the government and its partners are ensuring that breastfeeding is promoted in the workplace. According to the Acting Head of the Public Service Management and Modernisation Department at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, Parfait Jimmy Intwali, the Ministry of Public Service and Labour will maintain an ongoing collaborative effort with all pertinent stakeholders to keep improving mothers’ conditions at the workplace, both in the public and private sectors. He added that the interventions will include Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and breastfeeding rooms at the workplace. “A Ministerial Order issued in August this year on occupational health and safety extended the duration of maternity leave for female employees who have recently given birth from 12 weeks to 14 consecutive weeks. This additional time is another opportunity for mothers to breastfeed,” Intwali said. Furthermore, he stressed that the recent modification of working hours, introducing flexible working hours, permits mothers to engage in morning breastfeeding. This is in addition to the existing one-hour break allocated for breastfeeding, which can be utilised at a convenient time during the day. Private Kamanzi, the chairman of Rwanda Nutritionists Society (RNS), said that breastfeeding rooms are essential for every organisation to have because after three months of maternity leave, when mothers are back to work, most children aren’t able to breastfeed exclusively for six months. “This results in stunting among children, we are therefore mobilising for a safe, quiet, clean breastfeeding environment for both the mother and child.” Kamanzi also added that the one hour catered for breastfeeding every day isn’t enough and time can’t be managed, thus triggering stress for some mothers. He also noted that mothers who are allowed to bring their babies to work have the advantage of feeding enough, bonding with their children, and concentrating on work. This has reduced the trouble of always calling home to inquire if the baby is okay, well-fed, sleeping and not crying. Kamanzi highlighted that a breastfeeding room should be simple, for instance, it ought to entail a chair, mattress or bed where the baby sleeps after feeding, water for washing hands before and after breastfeeding, some drawings to keep the baby’s eyes busy, and a refrigerator where extracted milk is kept. Yvette Banamwana, an employee at the City of Kigali, is one of the mothers benefiting from the breastfeeding rooms. She explained that the breastfeeding room has enabled her to exclusively breastfeed her child. “Before, I would breastfeed for four months, which was hard for me and the baby after returning to work, since we have a breastfeeding room at the Kigali City headquarters, I continuously breastfeed at work,” she said. According to Africain Biraboneye, the General Secretary of CESTRAR, the two weeks added to the existing maternity leave, and the additional one hour of breastfeeding are already progressing to boost exclusive breastfeeding. He believes that institutions securing some breastfeeding space at work will require infrastructure and personnel to take care of kids during work hours. In her speech at the recent Breastfeeding Week launch, Valentine Uwamariya, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, noted the current data that shows the reduction in breastfeeding, especially in urban areas, could be due to the lifestyle where mothers are demanded to go to work after three months of maternity leave. “Even when a child is above six months when complementary feeding is introduced, breastfeeding continues for at least two years to prevent malnutrition and stunting of children. To prevent malnutrition and stunting and promote good health of children, we need to unlock all barriers to breastfeeding by supporting mothers, enabling them to continue breastfeeding even when they are at work,” she said. Uwamariya also stressed that when a mother is facilitated to breastfeed at work, it gives her peace, and comfort and increases productivity at work. She also added that mothers in ancient times had no jobs, reason why they stayed at home and breastfed, but this is not applicable in this era as mothers need to work for the development of their families and the country as well. Uwamariya called upon the private sector, government institutions, partners, civil society organisations and everyone to participate in the breastfeeding campaign and raise awareness of having breastfeeding rooms at the workplace to ensure breastfeeding at work.