Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the firing of a woman from her job at Totes/Isotoner for taking unapproved breaks to pump for her 5-month-old baby was not discrimination.
Technically speaking, she was in the wrong.
And even though two of the justices believed that breastfeeding should be covered under pregnancy discrimination, they had to rule that her unauthorized breaks were enough to get her fired, even though her colleagues who were taking unauthorized smoke breaks and bathroom breaks are still gainfully employed.
That's right. Somehow toking on cancer sticks and peeing is excusable.
The mixed messages from goverment regulated agencies, officials, and well-respected health organizations about breastfeeding is frustrating but not surprising.
New mothers are inundated with lactation consultants, nurses, even doctors strongly encouraging them to breastfeed right after the baby is born. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) strongly suggest breastfeeding until a baby is one and two, respectively.
And as many women who chose not to breastfeed or were unable to breastfeed can attest to, the societal pressure to put their boobs to functional use is often times overwhelming.
But yet, women still get tossed out of restaurants for breastfeeding in public. And apparently, women still get fired for taking breaks to pump milk.
"Breastfeed your babies, damnit!" they tell us, "but not in front of me or anywhere outside the privacy of your home and certainly not so that it interferes with you making umbrellas and slippers."
Even more interesting is that WIC and other lower-income service providers are strongly promoting the breastfeeding over formula with enhanced food packages for the moms and free breast pumps and supplies, not just for health reasons, which often times doesn't seem as a large enough factor to sway moms, but for cost reasons.
It's true. Breastfeeding is free.
But when women, particularly women from certain economic and social classes, have to return to their contract, hourly, temporary, and/or shift positions that do not afford them a quiet office, a nursing and pumping room, a long lunch, or any of the benefits those in a different economic and social classes have access to, it's not free.
In fact, it will probably cost them their job.
I've always understood that breastfeeding in this country is not a right but rather a privilege saved for those who have the time, opportunity, and resources to do it for longer than the first few weeks of their baby's life.
You can tell a new mom that "breast is best" until you're blue in the face, but how does that help her figure out how to pump at her Totes/Isotoner factory where she's allotted carefully monitored breaks that might not necessarily coordinate with when she needs to pump?
And where does she pump - the group break room? The women's restroom?
What super human woman is going to do that on a daily basis?
I never once took for granted my office with a lock and the student observation lab where I could pump privately or quietly nurse my baby. And I understood completely why the young mothers I gave birth right next door to in Mississippi chose formula.
Until we follow up these medically proven claims about the powers of breastmilk with action and support, moms will be left to make choices based on factors outside of their own baby's health and well-being.
And I just don't get how that's right.