Have you ever noticed how disadvantage begets further disadvantage?
Not sure what I mean?
Picture a well-paid professional mother working for “Awesome Expensive Coffee Business” Corporate Headquarters. We will call her Linda. Whenever Linda decides that it is time to pump, she leaves her desk and heads to a space with the beautiful label “Lactation Room.” She sits, behind a closed door, on a comfortable loveseat, plugs in her company provided breast pump and goes to work collecting her liquid gold for her baby. After she is finished, she packages her breastmilk and stores it in the office refrigerator to be carted home later for her baby to enjoy. Sounds pretty great right? You would definitely say that Linda has a choice to continue breastfeeding her baby AND work.
Is pumping at work still inconvenient? Sure, leaking bottles in your briefcase, leaving your work for many periods throughout the day and toting precious cargo back home is definitely no walk in the park, but it is doable.
What About This?
But, let’s think about the woman who staffs “Awesome Expensive Coffee Business’” counter. Melissa, that’s what we will call her, is told that she is only allowed to pump on her breaks. So, instead of eating and drinking on her breaks to keep up her breastmilk supply, she is found barricading herself in a small bathroom envisioned for customers, hoping that she may pump enough milk for her baby at home. Hoping that there may be a place to store her milk so that she does not need to dump it later on.
Would you say that Melissa has a choice? Along with the normal inconveniences of being a working, pumping mother, Melissa has so much working against her. So much so, that many mothers in Melissa’s same situation choose not to breastfeed at all. They decide against what is paramount for their baby because they feel that they need to choose between making a living and doing what is best for their child. Disadvantage begets disadvantage.
It is so important to normalize breastfeeding because,
This cycle continues everyday.
In 2010, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act added on a protective clause to the Fair Labor Standards Act for working nursing mothers. This clause states that an employer must provide time and an adequate space (a room other than the bathroom that is free from intrusion by other workers and the public) for a nursing mother to pump.
I bet that sounds like it solves all of our problems. Well, unfortunately it doesn’t.
Beyond the fact that it is difficult to enforce and that a lot of businesses are unaware of these laws; there is an additional clause that states that an employer does not need to compensate a worker for the adequate time that they have allotted the mother to pump. So, our friend Melissa, even if you are provided an adequate space where you may feel comfortable and the proper time that you deserve to be able to pump breastmilk for your baby; your employer can decide not to compensate you for the time that it takes to pump. Here we are again, a mother is put in a position to choose between making a living and breastfeeding her child.
Everyday that I nurse in public, every time that I share a brelfie, every Big Latch On we coordinate is working towards bringing rights and awareness for the women who have had to choose supporting her family over breastfeeding.
Whatever your choice may be, you should feel that you have a choice; that you have a voice for your family and your desires as a mother. No one should feel as though they need to decide between breastfeeding their child or earning a living. Breastfeeding should not be reserved for the wealthy and well-being; the stay at home mothers or the mothers who alter their work schedule to accommodate their new role. Breastfeeding should be for every mother who chooses it for their child, for their family. Nursing should be a right, not a privilege.
Together we stand up for the mothers who find themselves without this right.
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And… Don’t forget to share your brelfies using our hashtag #BreastfeedingWorld
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