Breastfeeding is best for baby, but what happens when you return to work and find that there are no nursing facilities?
What administrative manager Joyce Yap, 34, did was to express milk at her seat in her workplace. "I borrowed a room divider from a colleague and used it at my cubicle," said the mother of two children.
"The challenge is to convince estate managements that a nursing room is a need and not a want."
That is why NTUC's family development unit, U Family, launched Project Liquid Gold last year to raise awareness that returning to work should not be a key barrier to breastfeeding and to advocate for it.
U Family called for office building owners and employers to provide suitable nursing space at workplaces so mothers can continue to breastfeed upon returning to work.
Today, it remains a challenge to get companies to provide private lactation rooms, said Ms Toh Hwee Tin, director of NTUC U Family.
But some are making an effort to do so. JTC Corporation, for instance, embarked on a self-funded project in April to create public nursing space in two current developments - Biopolis and Fusionopolis.
Mr Mark Koh, director of its facilities and estate management division, said: "During our regular customer service surveys and engagements with our customers, we received feedback from mothers who were coming back to work for JTC about having nursing facilities in our developments."
The two nursing rooms at the research hubs each have a diaper changing station, hot and cold water dispensers, paper hand towels, a hand soap sanitiser, washing point, a litter bin, as well as a table and chairs.
"We have seen more than 100 users every month and this number is steadily increasing," said Mr Koh.
He added that JTC will consider having similar nursing facilities in its future developments.
Another company that heeded U Family's call was The Polyolefin Company, a private petrochemical firm which has about 300 employees at its plant on Jurong Island.
It plans to get a lactation room set up by next month, as two new working mothers will be returning to work then, said Mr Wong Chin Fee, who is with the company's human resource and administration department.
This year, under Project Liquid Gold, U Family partnered the Health Promotion Board and the Singapore National Employers Federation to distribute more than 1,000 copies of an Employer's Guide To Breastfeeding At The Workplace.
Ms Toh said the key challenge cited by companies is the lack of space. This, she said, "shows that there is a misconception on the need to provide an exclusive room for breastfeeding".
Companies can offer a shared or common room that, when not needed by breastfeeding mothers, can be used for other purposes, she said.
Employers can also support breastfeeding mothers by allowing them to have flexible breaks and work options, and by creating a supportive workplace culture, she said.
These measures are listed in the guide, which also highlights the benefits of being a breastfeeding-friendly employer, such as reduced absenteeism, and the resources that companies can tap on.
For instance, organisations can apply for up to $20,000 per office building under the Work-Life Developmental Grant to build public nursing facilities in office buildings.
"Through Project Liquid Gold, we hope there is more awareness of the support needed by breastfeeding mothers at the workplace, and that it is not difficult to provide it," said Ms Toh.
This article was first published on Dec 25, 2014.
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