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Breastfeeding: you're entitled to do it!

21/2000, 28.09.2000

The National Committee for the Promotion of Breastfeeding within BgVV points to the extensive provisions for the protection of breastfeeding in German legislation

"Breastfeeding: you're entitled to do it!" is the motto of this year's global breastfeeding week from 1 to 8 October 2000. The global breastfeeding week is staged annually by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). This year's motto draws attention to the fact that it is the task of politicians and society to make it possible in principle for women to breastfeed. This also means creating the preconditions for women to be able to breastfeed as long as they and their children want to despite being in gainful employment. At the same time, the motto points to the "right" of the child to receive optimum nutrition and that means being breastfed.

The National Committee for the Promotion of Breastfeeding within BgVV represents both aspects of this motto and points out that Germany has a very extensive Maternity Protection Act which aims to protect pregnant and breastfeeding mothers against health damage and disadvantages in their professional lives and at the workplace. The Act grants them specific rights in respect of financial and medical care. It also stipulates the right to keep a job and also protection against dismissal and, at the same time, the adaptation of work and working hours to the situation of the pregnant or breastfeeding woman.

The Act also stipulates that breastfeeding mothers, who return to work on expiry of the maternity protection period or at the end of maternity leave, may not be required to do certain work. That includes regular lifting of heavy loads, spending long periods in a crouched or bent position, considerable stretching or bending, long hours standing or sitting without breaks, contact with toxic or infectious substances or with open radioactive substances.

Breastfeeding women may not be employed during the night (between 20h00 and 6h00) or on Sundays or public holidays (exceptions are admissible for specific occupations). Their working hours may not exceed 8.5 daily. Breastfeeding women may not work more than 90 hours in two consecutive weeks; in the case of mothers under the age of 18 the figures are 8 or 80 hours. If it is necessary to transfer a breastfeeding mother to another workplace, she should not suffer any financial disadvantages. The legislators are also bound to ensure that they are not in jeopardy at their workplace or through the activity they carry out.

The breastfeeding working mother has a right to breastfeeding breaks: one half hour twice a day or one hour once a day. The breastfeeding breaks may not lead to any loss of income. She does not make this time up in advance or afterwards. Breastfeeding breaks may not be deducted from the statutory general breaks.

Breastfeeding is the best thing for the child and also advantageous for the health of the mother. That's why breastfeeding should be promoted by all social groups including employers. Even if it causes costs or requires organisational changes, a situation must be reached in which each mother is free to decide whether and, if so, how long she will breastfeed. This decision must not be dependent on external factors.

The Federal Ministry for the Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has outlined the provisions of the Maternity Protection Act in a pamphlet. It is obtainable free of charge from the

Federal Ministry
the Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
PO Box 20 15 51
53145 Bonn

The National Committee for the Promotion of Breastfeeding also supplies on request inserts free of charge with breastfeeding recommendations for the maternity logbook and the child's examination record, which contain information about the advantages and practicalities of breastfeeding. They are available in German and Turkish. They can be obtained from

Nationale Stillkommission
Geschäftsstelle BgVV
Thielallee 88-92
14195 Berlin

The general breastfeeding recommendations and the recommendations for the promotion of breastfeeding of the National Committee are accessible as PDF files on the BgVV Internet site and can be accessed and printed out using Acrobat Reader, Version 4.0.


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