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September 01, 2009

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In 2005, Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. Her comments upset some viewers who began organizing protests over the internet. A group of about 200 mothers staged a public "nurse in" where they breastfed their babies outside ABC's headquarters in New York.

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This is an interesting post. And I will add that I got railroaded from my job and "pushed out" to be a stay-at-home-mom. That was never my intent, but I pumped breastmilk at the office for my child and while my boss was ok to my face, the passive-aggressive actions started to push me out - it was torturous. I worked in an industry (and company) that is very male dominated and when the economy went south began pushing out women execs. There are unwritten rules in business at the high exec levels and I believe they can get away with it purely because of money.

Outrageous! In Texas this would have never stood. I would definitely appeal the judgment and get another lawyer for sure. I can't believe they are letting women take smoke breaks and bathroom breaks but no time for pumping breast milk. Absolutely absurd!
-Sylvia

You have been doing a great job, just keep going like this.

Thank you.
Martina

How about deleting the formula ad from your comments at 10:30 AM? Bleah.

I am lucky enough that my company has a nursing / pumping room and even supplies the pump (you only need to take your own bottles). You also never have to justify why you are taking a break or how long.

After reading this I feel so grateful!

Summertime sums up my thoughts perfectly. To me this is way less about the woman's legal rights so much as the corporation's pointless, authoritarian greed to take it *that far* to make their point. Whatever happened to treating people WELL--not just "only as well as we are legally required to"?

This kind of stuff makes me unbelievably angry.

And this case is a perfect example of why breastfeeding rates are highest among the more privileged. I could stay home and nurse for 18 months.

When I returned to work after my first daughter was born, my boss let me pump in his office. Completely accommodating.

Without support, the nursing mother who must return to work has an uphill battle. And it sucks. Not fair.

What a wonderfully written post, and how right you are.

Well freaking said! This ruling is appalling. I feel really lucky I was able to pump at work without too many problems. And honestly I had no idea something like this could happen. What a shock.

I feel lucky that my job is so open to allowing me the time to pump - yeah, it sucks because I have to do it in a bathroom stall (sitting on the floor is FUN!) but there's a door that locks and I guess, after reading this, it could be much much worse.

And if men used their man-boobs to nurse, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion.

Who cares if she was a temporary worker? Temporary does not make her less of a worker. Or even a human.

I can't even really articulate how much this pisses me off. Really, what is WRONG with people? They are THAT greedy? They need THAT much more production out of their employees? And are willing to take it all the way to their state's supreme court to prove their point, that THEY are right, that THEY are the boss?!

very well said and honestly balanced

After I had my first baby I went back to work for a few weeks and in those few weeks I pumped in a well used, not so clean bathroom right off a busy lobby where it was obvious to anyone who saw me go in with my Medela suitcase-sized pump or heard the constant whir through the thin walls what I was doing. It was the only bathroom in the place so if anyone needed to use it they had to wait until I was done and some of my co-workers (and let's face it, some of our customers) were not happy about that fact. But there was simply no other place to pump in relative privacy. It was either say "the hell with everyone else" or suck it up for five hours (I was only working part time). Any breastfeeding mother knows that five hours is a long time when you're only two months in to nursing a hungry newborn.

I was new to breastfeeding and because I hated the inconvenience and embarrassment so much I didn't pump as much as I should have and ended up with three infections in three weeks, each requiring a lot of rest, alternating ice and heat and antibiotics. It was horrible. I was eventually forced out of that job.

This is all a long way to say - No one should have to go through any of that. NO ONE. Shame on you Totes/Isotoner and shame on you State of Ohio. No one should be forced out of a job because they want to do what is best for their baby.

(okay I'm done now. Sorry I rambled.)

The lengths we go to. I was only able to pump 1 time during my lunch break. It was a 10 hour teaching day and I had a bathroom to pump in. With people knocking on the door. Did that for 8 months. When companies begin to realize breastfeeding = healthier babies = less doctors = keeps premiums low AND = less missed work time, it will be a great day. What a stupid decision.

As a young mother in the 70's, medical staff never even talked to me about breastfeeding. Worse, they allowed smoking right in the room with the babies! Disgusting! My advice to all is breastfeed for your baby and yourself. I now have a prolapsed uterus to deal with and being a cashier for 8 hours a day sucks, literally. Gravity is not my friend! My OB/GYN told me that had I breastfed my boys, I most likely would not have this nasty problem.
Please breastfeed your babies. The benefits are life long for both of you.

You couldn't have said it better.

Thank you for sharing this. I know now that I will no longer be purchasing any of their products as I had in the past. I used to feel better about buying stuff made in the usa, but this is just plain old crazy...

Yeah.

I pumped in a cubicle.

For a YEAR.

I had no other choice, if I wanted to breastfeed the days I was home.

How atrocious! Whenever I a mom nursing in public, I want to start clapping! I remember sitting my 18 month old on the shopping cart handle (while being supported in my sling) and letting him nurse while I browsed for groceries!

I hope this ruling gets overturned by the US Supreme Court. I also hope that she finds, or better yet...is OFFERED a nursing mom-friendly position at a different company. I wouldn't want to work for anyone that wasn't.

The extra benefit of extra breaks that smokers get has always bothered me. I've worked so many jobs where just being a smoker entitles you to an extra 30-45 minutes worth of breaks for you to destroy your health. I have a friend who became a smoker just so he could slack off at work more.

This ruling is a real disservice to mothers. Shame on the judges who ruled against her.

@AuntBecky - she was a contract employee with option to hire on permanently after 90 days based on performance, etc.

A day I am not glad to live in Ohio.
I managed 6 months pumping at work with my first child. I could go do it whenever I needed, but the location... the little 'locker room' section of the women's room. Luckily, only 2 other women work in the building, so I slapped a note on the outside of the door that said "Filling baby bottles- privacy please" and they stayed out if they could help it.
2nd baby I was so sick of that bathroom I only managed 3 months pumping.

Wow, what a great post. You're on a roll, I loved the recent one about not posting every single thing in your head, too. I run a breastfeeding group on a military base in Korea, and I have seen active duty moms go to some amazing lengths to keep nursing and pumping, like the cop who has to pump in a portapotty. I'm pretty hard-core but I don't know if I could do what a lot of moms have to do to make it work. I'm going to put up a link to this post on my blog later today. Sing it, sister!

If I understand correctly, this woman was a temporary worker, right?

I am so lucky to live in New Zealand, where breastfeeding in public is socially acceptable (and encouraged). Women in NZ (who have been employed for at least six months) receive up to 14 weeks of partially paid maternal leave, and the employer is required to hold their positions for a year after the leave begins. I did not return to work after my son was born, and I was able to breastfeed until he was 3 years old. However, had I chosen to return to work, my right to express milk or nurse my child at work is mandated by NZ law. The US needs to change!

It would be nice if Company's realized women having time to pump may mean less days off caring for sick kids.

I am grateful for my year long maternity leave (although not all Canadian women qualify for this, it should be noted) and continue to nurse my 14-month-old when I am not at work.

Yes, so frustrating. It never ceases to amaze me that our society is so buttoned up that it can't collectively embrace and acknowledge the functional (and beneficial) nature of breasts, unless it involves Hooters and porn. Not to mention that this sort of BS no doubt will scare plenty of mothers off the BF train. It's maddening.

-Christine

Wow! Well said. Women have enough to worry about when breastfeeding, without still having to stress about the work situation. I was blessed to be able to leave my job so that I could breastfeed...but you shouldn’t have to choose between your child’s health and your job!

Great post. There is nothing more frustrating to me than the pressure to breastfeed. And I nursed both of mine for a year each, pumping three times a day at work (where they were thankfully supportive). I could have done without the fricking pressure.

I've always said that there is a problem with a society that allows people to take smoke breaks but doesn't allow pump breaks. It is pure stupidity and says a lot about our culture in general.

Well said! I'm currently nursing my second child, and I've made more of a point of nursing in public this time. The more people see it, hopefully the more they'll get used to it. I know many breastfeeding moms who pump so they can feed their child a bottle when they are in public. That is so much work! The benefits of breastfeeding are huge (for mom and baby), and I wish there was more legislation to protect breastfeeding for moms and their babies. It shouldn't have to be a choice to either breastfeed or work.

@Lise- I pumped until my baby was 17 months old. She wasn't a very good eater, and I worried less about her nutrition knowing she was still getting breastmilk during the day. I didn't wean until she was 23 months old.

And a year long maternity leave would have been a disaster for me. I have nothing but respect for SAHMs- I know that I could not do their job well. I honestly think that going back to work saved my sanity.

My point is that every mother is different, and every baby is different. Longer maternity leaves are not the only solution.

I personally would like to see women get the OPTION to take a longer leave, but also have laws protecting their right to pump if they go back to work while the baby is still breastfeeding. While I'm talking about my dream world, let's provide more support for part-time/reduced hours and flexible schedules.

And I want to see these options implemented in a way that makes them accessible to ALL women, not just those of us who can afford time off without pay and whose jobs already have flexible hours. We're setting up a two-tier maternity system in the US, and that sucks.

Damn I'm glad I live in Canada! I can't wait for my year long maternity leave. By the time I go back, the baby will be weaned, so I don't have to worry!I feel bad for you guys.

The place I worked had a lactation room for pumping mothers, but didn't give the breaktime for it. It was worse if you were pregnant, because if you had to pee and it wasn't a scheduled break time, too bad. So, to try to not get fired, I drank less and less, until put on bedrest for low amniotic fluid. I quit the job so not to find out about how it was going to work breastfeeding.

Oh, that makes me mad.

It would be against the law in California. I'm glad to hear that it would be illegal in Minnesota, too- but it should be illegal in all states. I believe that there is some effort to pass a national law guaranteeing a woman's right to pump at work. I suppose it is too much to hope for that it might actually pass.

I have to say- I never once got any grief from anyone about breastfeeding in public or pumping at work. I even pumped in an airplane seat once (under a big shawl- no one could see anything, and really, the only other option was to tie up the only bathroom in coach for 15 minutes). I think attitudes are changing. But far too slowly, and far too unevenly.

There is such a disconnect between what women are being told, and what's being supported in the workplace. Nothing illustrates that better than what's going on in this case.

I feel very fortunate to live in Quebec at times like these. We've got our problems, but we have a government that is incredibly supportive of moms and family. 1 year paid maternity leave (for freelancers, too!), paternity/parental leave options, $7/day daycare, free respite care for overwhelmed moms, free house calls from nurses to new moms, etc.

Is it any wonder we've got such a high birth rate?

This just kills me. I am very blessed to have had the privacy of my own office to pump and nurse. That said, even my very liberal workplace was not completely supportive and I felt very self conscious every time my son was brought by the office or I had to pump. Breastfeeding moms need support, and should be considered heroes (well, almost all moms are heroes) for putting up with leaky breasts, sore nipples, pumps, all night nursing sessions, lack of freedom, etc. The fact that this woman (who as a new mom is probably struggling on many levels) lost her job for doing the right thing for her baby is just disgusting.

I feel lucky in that my company is completely understanding of my need to pump three times during the work day, and that my boss has actually asked to make sure I am comfortable, etc. I can't understand how people can be so insensitive to a mother's rights. It is so sad.

Lovely post. I completely understand.
When I had my oldest 6 yrs ago I was just starting out as a hairstylist. I worked in a salon where the only place they would let me pump is the stock room which had nowhere to sit except the concrete floor.
I told my boss before I got hired that I would need to pump and she was fine with it. Then after a few weeks of doing so she told me she would have to fire me if I continued to pump because it took too long. So I chose to wean him bc I was afraid to be fired and I didn't know my rights. Mothers need to be accommodate at work to pump even if they don't have an office.

Wow! That makes me really sad. They should be ashamed of themselves! I'm glad the military is very supportie of it.

My work mates thought I should use my lunch hour to pump (broken into 3 twenty minute sessions). Then I started timing their smoke breaks, and a LOT of them took a smoke break every HOUR. Yeah... they decided I could eat during my lunch break. So glad it wasn't actually something they had any control over, but it did put it into perspective.

I am SO LUCKY to be able to work from home this time around! And I know it and am thankful!

Could not have said it better myself. That was a very important and powerful post.

This all goes back to the same thing, unfortunately, the lack of a national maternity policy, that so many other countries have(Hello,Canada!). Until there is support for mothers who want to stay home with their babies instead of having to return to work at an early age, this will arise again and again.
I have worked for WIC and seen the cirucmstances that force women to return to work at 6 weeks, only to be told there isnt a place to pump. GRRRR!

You said it better than I have been able to. Mostly when I heard about this I just cussed a lot and got red in the face.

Great post.

This makes me so angry. I don't even have anything eloquent to say.

My previous employer had a pumping room put in complete with comfortable chairs, security, private rooms and so on for women to nurse in. But I know that's in the minority.

I always feel awkward when I nurse in public, which is wrong. I shouldn't feel that I'm doing something wrong when I nurse my baby in public. It doesn't stop me from doing it but people will give you the worst looks. Is it so wrong to feed my girl and want her to be healthy? Apparently in Ohio it is...

My city can be quite backwards at times but they recently redid the bathrooms and food court, and in fact added a nursing room in that area (separate room), that has extremely comfortable chairs and couches and the like for mothers who are nursing. Makes me kind of jealous since my kids are way past that stage.

A woman was tossed (and threatened with a police escort) from our local mall for discretely breastfeeding her son. Oddly, the breasts on the Victoria's Secret posters 100 feet away were okay, though.

The push to get women to breastfeed has only reached the mental level, the level where women who DON'T breastfeed feel shame about it and women who want to feel guilty when they can't keep it up. As an abstract, statistical thing breastfeeding gets tons of support.

The next level is the one where companies and communities actually support breastfeeding on an individual level. The level where nursing your baby at the mall or taking a few extra short breaks to pump is encouraged and applauded. The level where if someone complains about seeing a breast pump or (God forbid) part of a boob they're told their right not to be offended isn't protected by law, but a woman's right to feed her baby is.

Unless, I guess, you live in Ohio.

I was one of the "lucky" ones with an actual lactation room in my office building, but I only found out when I asked for help. Other women didn't know about it either. So the company was part-way there.

We need to work together to make it possible for women (who want to) to breastfeed successfully no matter where they live and work.

And while we're at it, it might be nice to stand together to make it easier for women to choose what is going to work in their lives regarding feeding their babies. It sucks that women have to make a choice about working or breastfeeding, but until that changes, it helps if I act compassionately toward women who don't breastfeed, even tho it was the best choice for me.

Thanks for your post.

Great post! I agree 100%. I also am blessed to work for a wonderful company (GlaxoSmithKline) where breastfeeding and pumping are encouraged, we have the flexibility to tailor our schedules to accomodate these activities. If nothing else, employers should realize that they stand to benefit from moms being able to breastfeed as long as possible without feeling guilt or stress in the workplace. Kids given breastmilk are healthier, which means less visits to the pediatrician....which means less time that employees need to take off for doc appts/tending to sick kids, and fewer hits on the insurance premiums. Prevention is always more sensible than treating illness!
Keep up the good work, Kristen!

I work as a professor and have my own private office and even I found it difficult to continue breastfeeding when I returned to work. My teaching schedule (not of my own choosing) made it really difficult with very little time in between classes to pump and this semester is even worse (I have 30 minutes in between classes 2 and 3). So even those of us with seemingly perfect set-ups can hit snags.

All the more reason we need 1 year paid maternity leave in my opinion!

My coworker and I were lucky enough to have a room set aside (albeit, a different room every week since they kept moving us around) to pump in. But then we were told that we were no longer allowed to clean the equipment in the break room sink (and would have to go into the bathroom ICK) because some male coworkers were offended and considered seeing the breast pumps where they eat pornography. WTF?! The anger I felt at the time was unbelievable. My coworker promptly looked up the breastfeeding stance of the company (ironically, they have a breastfeeding awareness/tolerance/encouragement seminar every year) and then threatened legal action. They shut the hell up after that.

AMEN! I had to get creative about when and where to pump at work. Blocking the un-lockable door to the conference room with my body and chair, definitely made for a speedy pumping sesson! And sharing an office was kind of tricky. :) But it worked, and I know I'm lucky to even have the opportunity to pump at work. The U.S. definitely needs improved maternity/breastfeeding laws. Did you know in Norway you get a year partially paid maternity leave?!?

I was grateful everyday at work for the wonderful laws in Minnesota. My company had to provide me with room to pump (and it couldn't be a bathroom stall) and they have to allow me to go and pump. I think that other states should look at the example being set here in MN. While not perfect, it is far beyond many other places.
However, it's things like this that make me so pissed about the maternity leave in this country. 6-8 weeks? FTW.

typical of the american perspective about women's bodies in general:

our boobs are sexualized, then when they're used (or not) FOR WHAT THEY'RE SUPPOSED to be used, we are punished.

we are supposed to love our bodies as is, but look at 99.8% of magazine covers and what do you see?

it is a CRYING SHAME what some women go through . . . and the 'lower' you are on that socio-economic ladder, the worse it is.

Wow & wow! Amazing, beautiful, powerful post. It still amazes that breastfeeding in public is looked down upon. I would love to say that I was Wonder Woman enough to make a stand with a dammit it all, here's my boob, attitude... but I too just couldn't always muster the courage and would nurse in the car and make the mad dash home. It could have something to do with being so tired, I didn't have the energy to start a revolution. I am well rested most days now and I would love to see a restaurant try and tell one of my friends or sisters to cover up or leave... oh yeah... bring it!

It's terrible how some companies treat their employees. And you're right. The contradictions are enormous.

I once worked for a company that got pissed if you even had to pee other than the designated break times. I once got reprimanded for having to use the bathroom 5 min before lunch break. It couldn't be helped. I told my supervisor next time I'd piss myself and see how they liked that.

Some people running some companies are just ignorant assholes.

Wonderful post--it is so true and so frustrating. I was lucky that I was able to pump in my office, but I always thought of the women who had hourly jobs and bosses that would not understand the importance of pumping. It makes me sad and furious--Equally.

Amen Sister.

It's all kinds of messed up. We are told to breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. Then force mothers to claw and fight for the chance to do so, all the while shaming them for not doing it/doing it where anyone knows they are doing it.

I feel very lucky to work for a company that is pro-breastfeeding and supportive to moms as they return to work. It's a shame more companies are not as understanding and supportive.

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