Project Liquid Gold: Supporting breastfeeding mums at work
Find out about the great work Project Liquid Gold does and how you too can make your workplace more supportive for breastfeeding mums...
For breastfeeding mothers needing to head back to work and who want to continue giving their babies the goodness of their breastmilk, one of the biggest issues they face is how to express enough milk at their workplace to get their little ones through the day, and keep their supply up.
For those who need more clarity — breastfeeding works on a “supply and demand” basis. A breastfeeding mother’s breasts will usually* produce the exact amount of milk her baby needs, depending on how often the little one nurses.
This means that when a breastfeeding mum returns to work, it’s really important that she is able to express breastmilk regularly in order to both build up a stock of milk for her baby, and to ensure that her milk supply doesn’t drop.
However, unless mums have a supportive work environment — including colleagues, managers and infrastructure –expressing milk at work could become a literal nightmare.
While there are quite a few companies in Singapore that provide incredible levels of support for working, breastfeeding mums, others are not quite there.
We recently spoke to Billie Anne Lyou — a Principal Specialist with the U Family team — about Project Liquid Gold.
Please tell us about Project Liquid Gold — what prompted its initiation and for how long has it been around now?
NTUC U Family has been advocating for a long time for workplaces to have a family friendly culture.
For new mothers, transitioning back to work after their maternity leave can be stressful as they would have to think about how to continue to provide breast milk for their babies while they are away at work.
To help with this issue, NTUC U Family started Project Liquid Gold in 2012 to encourage workplaces to be supportive of working mums who have to express breast milk at work.
Could you describe the various Project Liquid Gold programmes? How can breastfeeding mums benefit from them?
Recognising that mums may not know how to prepare to express milk at work, Project Liquid Gold started a monthly support group with ABAS (Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy Singapore) to help mummies who are still on their maternity leave.
These support group sessions are led by a lactation consultant from ABAS and are free for mums to attend.
To enable working mums who have the passion to help other new mothers in the area of breastfeeding, Project Liquid Gold came up with a Workplace Breastfeeding Mentor Programme.
This one-day course is accredited by ABAS and trains mums to be able to mentor other mums on breastfeeding issues, especially in the context of the workplace.
This is important because breastfeeding employees may not feel comfortable to raise up issues on breastfeeding to the management, who may be male staff.
A Workplace Mentor can help to support breastfeeding employees. Workplace mentors also have access to Project Liquid Gold’s posters and desk signs which can help promote the awareness of breastfeeding at work. Employers are encouraged to support their staff to attend this course.
On the next page, find out how Project Liquid Gold is working with companies to help them better understand the needs of a breastfeeding mum.
A lot of working mums who need to pump at work complain about the lack of awareness of their colleagues (including bosses) about breastfeeding in general and why they need to express milk at work. Is Project Liquid Gold doing anything to change these perceptions?
Some employers are not sure how to support their employees who need to breastfeed, assuming that it’s troublesome to provide a nursing room or that breastfeeding mums are demanding.
To help employers get a better understanding about the needs of a breastfeeding mum at work, Project Liquid Gold published an Employer’s Guide to Breastfeeding at the Workplace.
This free resource is jointly produced by Health Promotion Board and Singapore National Employers’ Federation, with support from the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore), and is available by clicking this link.
Also, as part of NTUC’s May Day Awards, we also recognise companies and individuals who have been championing for practices which benefit the breastfeeding mother.
Last year, we received over a hundred nominations from mothers who wished to highlight how their employers and colleagues have supported their breastfeeding journey.
How can breastfeeding, working mums best tackle pumping at work?
Communication is important to establish a trusting and good relationship between the mother and her colleagues and supervisors. Before returning to work, it would be good for the mother to let her colleagues know that she would need to breastfeed and to work out an arrangement.
A breastfeeding mum needs three main things at work – space to pump, time to pump and support to pump.
For space, ideally it would be good to have a nursing room. However in reality, not all offices have the luxury of space.
In this case, the management can consider letting the staff use an empty meeting room, a clean store room or even set up a partition in a quiet corner of the office for the mum to have some privacy when pumping.
For time to pump, the mum can let her management know how often and how long she needs to pump. She can suggest to pump at timings which are not crucial to her work schedule and reassure them that her work performance will not be affected.
And of course, having supporting colleagues and management will ease any anxiety the mum may have about expressing milk in the workplace.
Are breastfeeding mums legally protected when it comes to expressing milk in public places in Singapore, including the workplace?
There are no laws that are against mothers to pump at work. Project Liquid Gold aims to promote a culture of understanding and support at the workplace.
Why do you think some companies still hesitate to provide the support needed for breastfeeding, working mums?
Over the past few years, more awareness has been created on the benefits of breastfeeding. But some workplaces may still draw the line between work and family.
Breastfeeding is seen as a personal choice and workplaces may not be sure of how to support their employees who have to breastfeed at work.
A mindset shift is needed as our workforce progresses. Employers who can support their employees in their family responsibiltiies will have a better time retaining and attracting talent.
Finally, how can companies work with mums in the workplace to better support them in relation to breastfeeding and pumping?
Project Liquid Gold encourages companies to come on board the Workplace Breastfeeding Mentor Programme by nominating one or two staff to be trained as Breastfeeding Mentors.
Since the start of the programme in 2015, there are 17 companies who are on board already.
So mums, if you are currently breastfeeding and anxious about how you will handle all things related to nursing once you head back to work, it’s time to stop worrying knowing there are initiatives like Project Liquid Gold to support you.
If you would like to contact them, please email them at [email protected].
Watch this video: Singaporean mums talk about pumping at the workplace, the challenges they face, and the support they get.
*Some mums, however, may experience low- or over-supply issues. For any breastfeeding related problem, please reach out to a lactation nurse or consultant.
Are you a breastfeeding, working mum? Is your workplace supportive of your needs or do you think more awareness needs to be created?
Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.