icddr,b project helps working women in garments sector to optimally breastfeed

icddr,b has installed a low-cost breast milk pasteurisation machine and 10 breast pumps in a garments factory in urban Dhaka in collaboration with University of Toronto and Interfab Shirt Manufacturing Limited

Working women will save money and be able to provide optimal nutrition for their young babies, as a result of a new project launched by icddr,b scientists and University of Toronto, Canada students in collaboration with Interfab Shirt Manufacturing Limited, a Dhaka-based garments company. The project is called Mother’s Milk, and it aims to support women working in the ready-made-garments sector to breastfeed with a prototype breast milk pasteurisation machine that keeps breast milk safe for eight hours. The pasteurisation machine uses a low-cost, water-efficient heating process to sterilise the milk, which can be used to feed the babies while their mothers are at work or in the evening.

The project was funded by Grand Challenges Canada, with support from the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and the Swiss family-owned company Medela, which provided the breast pumps.

The World Health Organization says that if every women optimally breastfed their baby, then the lives of 800,000 young children could be saved every year. Women opt not to breastfeed for many reasons, but in the case of working women, says co-principal investigator on the study and associate scientist at icddr,b, Dr Sabrina Rasheed, sometimes they don’t have a choice because their workplaces are not child-friendly.

“Working mothers are aware of the importance of breastfeeding but most of them do not have the opportunity to feed their children due to time constraints,” she said at the launching ceremony of the project in Dhaka on 10 December 2015.

The project hopes to be of benefit to the garment factory as well as to the women and their babies. Factories who adopt breast milk pasteurisation as part of their benefits package for staff could see improved staff retention, with less women staying home to take care of their children, as well as receive positive publicity, says Dr Rasheed.

As part of the project, the working mothers will also receive micronutrient tablets, health and hygiene education and referral support for sick children to icddr,b’s Dhaka Hospital.