NAIROBI, Kenya: Oserian Development Company has been recognized for the second year in a row for outstanding support to breastfeeding at work and the Naivasha-based flower farm’s crèche earmarked as a model of excellence and training centre for establishment of similar facilities to support the annual World Breastfeeding Week under the theme, “Breastfeeding—a key to sustainable development.”
The week is held on the first week of August every year. “Our Creche has a capacity for 100 babies and is managed by personnel trained in baby care and housed within the farm’s dispensary to ensure that emergencies are sorted even before the mother is alerted,” said Erastus Mugo, head of health department.
The recognition by the Ministry of Health Division of Nutrition and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) comes at a time legislation and policies advocating for breastfeeding centres at the work place are being drafted in Kenya.
Oserian has been a front runner in taking care of young mothers at the workplace, having established the crèche over 10 years year ago. It is now a centre for showcasing breastfeeding best practices and training for businesses wishing to set up similar facilities for their employees.
While the farm is expansive, sitting on 200,000 acres, new mothers are allocated duties in sections that are near the crèche such as the pack houses and nearby greenhouses to allow them shorter distances to walk to breastfeed. They are allowed an hour for breastfeeding and leave an hour earlier to pick up babies after work. The crèche takes care of babies from four months when mothers resume work after maternity leave, up to three years when the toddlers graduate to the early childhood education.
The crèche has an exclusive breastfeeding room where mothers express milk that is stored in hygienic conditions for continued feeding.
“This has enabled the mothers to concentrate with work without worrying about the babies, creating a productive work force as well as saving them the cost of house helps,” added head of human resources, Mary Kinyua.
The Oserian crèche supports recommendations by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months to tame preventable diseases.
According to healthcare and child nutrition experts, if all children were exclusively breastfed for six months, 13 per cent of preventable deaths would not happen. This is because breast milk is safe and boosts a child’s immunity.
Among recent visits to the Creche is staff from the North Kinangop Catholic Hospital who toured the facility for benchmarking after proposing to start a child care centre for workers’ children. The hospital Social Welfare Officer, Mbugua Maina, says based on the visit to Oserian, their centre is already established in readiness for blessing on the World Hospital Day this November. The centre is taking care of 15 children. Maina says the visit to the Oserian Creche helped them with ideas such as baby cots, colours, nutrition, need for uniforms to enable babies and visitors identify caregivers and the process of booking the kids in the morning and releasing them to their parents. The babies are weighed, temperature recorded and general physical health details taken every day for which the mother signs in the condition in which she checked in her baby and also when she checks him out. “We learned more than we expected,” said Maina after the tour.
‘We are happy to have a positive impact on society under our Flori4Life Vision,” said Head of Administration Kirimi Mpungu. Oserian has been a front runner in taking care of young mothers at the workplace, having established the crèche over 10 years year ago.
Leah Wanjiru, a mother of three who works in the greenhouses has a five-month old baby at the Creche. “Having my baby at the crèche is not the same as leaving her with a maid. Once the baby is checked in we don’t think about them until breastfeeding or taking them after work. The baby is safe, is well fed and clean. I haven’t had any issues with the baby’s health. We are advised on progress and general welfare giving us peace of mind to concentrate on our work,” she said. Same sentiments were echoed by her colleague Winnie Wangechi who said she is free from the cost, uncertainty and anxiety of leaving a child with a housemaid. She joked that her baby at times refuses the breast because he is well-fed. Evelyne Otieno added the babies are trained on critical milestones such as self-feeding and walking and potting. Here mothers don’t call saying they can’t report for work because they have a sick baby as happens in other workplaces. Sick babies are put on special attention, seen by the doctor, medication administered and fed on special diet. Sometimes mothers don’t know when their babies fall sick but find they have been taken care of. “We don’t call the mother’s unless there is a serious situation,” said Florence Shitiko, a nurse at the crèche.
The Oserian Creche is a pet project of the founders of Oserian, Hans and June Zwager in support of continuity of life, creating a happier workforce and growing future generations under the farm’s staff welfare which fits perfectly within the company’s Flori4Life vision.
It is located near the farm’s hospital for proximity to health and child welfare requirements.
by Catherine Riungu