Kenyan MPs approve bill to have employers provide breastfeeding stations

Working mothers will be now be able to juggle between work and breastfeeding.

MPs approved a historic provision on Tuesday that will make it mandatory for employers to provide breastfeeding stations for nursing mothers in the workplace.

In another win for women, after Parliament passed the Matrimonial Property and Sexual Offences bills, MPs also approved the breastfeeding clause in the Health Bill, 2015.

The bill had been sponsored by the National Assembly Health Committee chaired by Rachel Nyamai (Kitui South, pictured).

Under the provision, employers will be required to set up the stations with all the necessary facilities, including electric outlets for breast pumps, refrigerators and appropriate cooling facilities within the office premises.

The employers will also be compelled to provide 'comfortable' seats for mothers to ensure the breastfeeding experience is as relaxed as possible.

"All employers shall in the workplace establish lactation stations, which shall be adequately provided with necessary equipment and facilities....," reads the new clause in the bill, which also compels employers to allow nursing mothers breaks to breastfeed their babies during working hours.

"An employer shall grant all nursing employees break intervals in addition to the regular times off for meals to breastfeed or express milk," adds the clause.

The breastfeeding period must not exceed one hour for every eight working hours, the clause specifies.

Although some companies are already providing breastfeeding facilities, it is the first time such a provision will be written into law.

The effect of the clause, according to MPs, is to allow mothers to bring up healthy babies by allowing them greater periods to breastfeed. Lack of such facilities has meant that mothers leave their children at home and only breastfeed them after work. Most mothers opt to reduce the breastfeeding period for their babies, in what health experts warn places the health of their babies at risk.

"This provision will really help mothers. We have had a rough time leaving young babies at home," said Rachel Amollo (Kakamega).

"I support this clause because it allows mothers to feed their children on breast milk for as long a possible," added Susan Chebet (Elgeyo Marakwet)

The bill is expected to be forwarded to the President for assent.

"This is one of the landmark bills that this house has passed," said the chair of the House Public Accounts committee, Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda)