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nursing mothers need workplace support

September 27, 2009

This is my first contribution to the monthly Breastfeeding Carnival hosted by The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. I’m really excited to participate:)

I just watched this video on the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. I didn’t think I had anything to say about breastfeeding in the workplace, but after watching this video, I feel compelled to express my emotions on the issue.

Nursing mothers have a biological need to empty their breasts every few hours. You wouldn’t expect someone to hold their bladder for several hours (some people can, most can’t), so why would you expect someone to hold their milk?

Not being able to express milk in a timely matter can lead to engorged breasts (which is uncomfortable!), infection, and a reduction of milk production.

Holding milk in too long is bad for the baby. When milk is held too long in the breast, the fat in it starts to metabolize and the milk becomes too watery. The baby will need to drink more of it to reach its caloric needs, but unfortunately repeated engorgement will cause the breasts to produce less milk.

Many working mothers are allowed to pump at work, but only at set times that may be too far apart, and they are often required to pump in a restroom. Usually a public restroom. They may even be expected to pump in a stall where they are out of view of others. Oh, gross.

As a doctor in the video mentions, it is not advisable to pump or breastfeed in a public restroom because they are so full of bacteria and germs. This made me remember what a midwife said to me when I first got mastitis: If milk can get out, then bacteria can get in. Therefore, pumping milk or breastfeeding in a bathroom potentially exposes the breasts to pathogens that can then enter in through the nipple and cause infection. DON’T BREASTFEED IN A BATHROOM! It is unhealthy.

There needs to be a law that protects nursing mothers from discrimination in the workplace. In many workplaces, employees are allowed to take smoking breaks and bathroom breaks as often as they need. But why is smoking accepted as a legitimate need for a break, but not pumping or nursing? Women can be fired for taking unscheduled pumping breaks. This isn’t right. We are human, not robots. We have biological needs. We have families that depend on us. Women should not be discriminated for their parenting choices. Especially such a healthy one.

I think the workplace in general is becoming more accepting of breastfeeding, but it is not anywhere near where it needs to be. Women need access to clean facilities to pump or feed in, and they need to be able to pump on the same schedule that the baby eats (or about every three hours).

The work world needs to recognize the importance of the family. If we put a higher value on the family, I believe the world would be a better place. If the needs of the family are met, children will grow up to be happy and capable adults, who will probably be better workers than people whose needs haven’t been met. So doing something simple like supporting breastfeeding mothers can help improve the workforce overall. Plus, happy employees usually make better employees, anyway. Even if they do take an extra 15 minute break.

Check out these other carnival posts:

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessie permalink
    September 29, 2009 10:51 am

    I know what you mean Lisa. With Sophia I had to work weekends and they werent very supportive of my nursing, meaning they didnt offer me a clean place to pump. I did have to pump (AND DUMP) in the restroom. Sophia had to have bottles of formula on the weekends. It was hard but I got through it. Thanks for posting this, it is needed!

    • September 29, 2009 12:02 pm

      Wow, that is so sad that you had to throw away your milk and give her formula instead, but it was probably safer than giving her milk pumped in a restroom. I mean, if you’re supposed to use STERILIZED pump parts, it doesn’t make sense to bring them into a restroom!!

  2. September 29, 2009 12:02 pm

    I really agree; the world of work does need to put more emphasis of the importance of family and in particular mothers. Nothing a mother does for the wellbeing of her child – be it breastfeeding, taking time off when they are ill, working part time to spend more time with them etc – should make her a ‘nuisance’ in the workplace. We are raising the bankers, the doctors, the world leaders of the future, for goodness’ sake! Cut us some freakin’ slack!


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