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Go Ask Mom

MomsRising: Working moms who breastfeed get help

Posted June 28, 2010

Have you ever had to hide in a bathroom at work, balancing your breast pump, trying hard to make sure you keep everything clean and trying to time your schedule so you can pump when you need to? If so, you’re not alone!

If you’ve ever nursed a baby while working outside the home, odds are good that you’ve struggled with finding time at work to pump or a place that’s private, clean and safe to express milk for your baby. Returning to an unsupportive work environment has been identified as a major reason women avoid starting nursing or abandon it early. Fortunately, nursing moms are about to get a little help thanks to a little known provision in the new health care reform act.

This provision will guarantee many nursing moms the right to express milk at work. It allows nursing moms to take a break every time they need to express breast milk and requires employers to provide a private location, other than a bathroom, to pump. This new law provides protections to those women who need it most - hourly workers, including those who work in retail, factories, and restaurants and call centers, who often have the most difficult time taking needed breaks and finding clean, safe spaces to pump.

This is a critical step forward for mothers in the workplace. Most female workers in this country and in North Carolina have to return immediately to work after giving birth because they don't have access to any paid family leave or cannot afford to take the unpaid, job-protected leave that the Family Medical Leave Act provides. Or they are one of the many women who aren't even covered by FMLA. In fact, there is no federal or state law that guarantees new mothers paid time off to be with their newborn children and nurse them at home.

For many women, returning to work is not a choice but a necessity. For the first time in our nation’s history, women comprise the majority of the workforce and are the primary breadwinners in nearly four out of 10 American families. The fastest growing segment of the workforce is women with children under 3! As our workforce changes, our workplace polices need to change to reflect the realities of today’s worker.

The decision to breastfeed is a very personal choice and not one that should be predetermined by where a mother works. We must continue to work to remove the barriers in our workplaces that prevent women who desire to breastfeed their children from doing so effectively, and we must convince our legislators that North Carolinians --- both women and men --- want to see laws that let them fulfill their work responsibilities without giving short shrift to their families.

At MomsRising, we support paid sick days, expanded family medical leave including maternity leave, the right to request flexible work arrangements, and pay equity. North Carolina prides itself on family values. This starts with valuing our families and supporting policies parents deserve to reach their full potential as parents and as employees. We hope you’ll join us!

Beth Messersmith is a Durham mom of two and member of the North Carolina chapter of MomsRising. To learn more, go to momsrising.org.

8 Comments

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  • laurenelrod Jun 29, 2010

    breastfeeding a 4 yr old, LOL! Seriously, that is weird, I mean I am all for breastfeeding, I am still nursing my 6 month old but..can we say...weird??

  • fwfwille Jun 29, 2010

    Thank you for bringing attention to such an important issue! We as a society should do everything in our ability to support children to build a solid foundation and it begins with encouraging actions as simple as breastfeeding/pumping!

  • Mugu Jun 29, 2010

    That is a waste of company time, why do all of the responsible employees who choose to not have children pick up the slack for women who have to go and pump milk, take care of their children and all of the other stuff that goes with it. I demand equality!

  • 1 of the original Americans Jun 29, 2010

    the last one was already 4 years old when he had his last night feeding.

    Huh??? are you serious? you breast fed a 4 year old???

  • MCM Jun 29, 2010

    I worked for a company that have "milk pumping facilities", but most of the time I didn't have the time to go all the way upstairs, so I did a lot of bathroom pumping.

    I want just to encourage every working mom. I have 3 kids, always worked full time since they were 2 month all, all of them have been breastfeed until at least 1 year old and the last one was already 4 years old when he had his last night feeding.

    It is not easy but sure it is a rewarding experience and can be done.

    MCM

  • elliesmom Jun 29, 2010

    I was very fortunate to not only have an office with a door, but also have child care for my daughter just a block away, so I could spend my lunch nursing her and checking in with her during the day. I knew then and now how fortunate I was. I have to say, it made a huge difference in my attitude and motivation going back to work. I was a much happier and focused employee!

  • iriemom Jun 29, 2010

    I remember when my workplace decided to create "nursing rooms" for pumping. These rooms double as small conference rooms - which seems reasonable since the rooms wouldn't get used that much and there isn't much space to dedicate to nursing. My first thought was - "nice, but who would want to pump with all that spilled coffee everywhere?"

    I always thought there should have been a spot in a larger bathroom that provided more comfort for pumping/nursing. I used to bring my baby in to work with me on occasion and having a comfortable, clean, spot was more important than 100% privacy.

    I am lucky that my workplace at least attempts to provide facilities and a decent attitude toward pumping/nursing.

  • Adelinthe Jun 28, 2010

    "At MomsRising, we support paid sick days, expanded family medical leave including maternity leave, the right to request flexible work arrangements, and pay equity. North Carolina prides itself on family values. This starts with valuing our families and supporting policies parents deserve to reach their full potential as parents and as employees."

    AMEN, AND AMEN!!!

    It's not good for babies to lose their mothers to work so soon after they are born. It can seriously disrupt the bonding process which can later lead to personality problems which we then need to deal with, usually in expensive judicial ways.

    God bless.

    RB