When my children were born, I was determined to breastfeed them until at least age 1. I would schlep my breast pump around and express regularly throughout the day. In the case of my firstborn child, at times it felt like an exercise in futility because she refused to take a bottle from anyone other than my husband. Considering that she spent her days in daycare, you can imagine the nightmare this created as my daughter dropped from the 95th percentile to the 5th percentile for weight soon after I returned to work. Despite her hunger strike, I was determined to keep on pumping, and storing my milk, preparing for the day she would surrender. She never did… but that is a story for another time because I digress!
I was fortunate that my employer at the time provided a space for me to express my liquid gold. Sure it was in the bathroom, and I did not have a door to lock, but at least it was a women’s bathroom, and there was a small curtain I could close for some semblance of privacy. Despite these small comforts, it was often difficult to calm myself enough to express any appreciable amount of milk. The loud noise of the pump, strange noises coming from women in the stalls, the movements of other people in the room, the possibility that someone would draw back the curtain, etc. all contributed to making me feel less than at ease. And as many women know, the amount of milk one can express is usually inversely proportional to the level of ease of the expresser. So, you do the math. I often wonder who decided that a bathroom is the appropriate place to prepare a baby’s food. Although, I should not be too surprised, given the discomfort and/or disdain of many upon seeing me nurse my baby in public, WITH a blanket covering the entire operation. A female cousin (on my husband’s side) once told me at a restaurant dinner to go and nurse the baby in the bathroom. I am patiently awaiting the day she has her own baby. After she carefully boils the bottle, nipple and water for her baby’s formula, I will tell her to take the bottle into the dirty, smelly bathroom stall to feed her baby – the look on her face will be priceless! I ‘woulda, shoulda’ told her to take her own dinner and eat it in there!
Ok, so even though my workplace pumping situation was not the best, it could have been much worse! The U.S. Department of Labor issued a request for information from pumpers, their employers and nursing advocates to share their experiences and recommendations regarding what they have been doing to abide by the new (March 2010) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which requires employers to provide “reasonable” time and locations (other than a bathroom – yay!) to pump baby milk. The comment period ended this Tuesday, but there were some very interesting responses, as discussed in a Time article on the subject. In the responses, women described pumping in a common filing room with a door that could not be locked from the inside; in a communal copier room or the director’s office (whose doors were sometimes opened mid-pump by people with keys); in personal cars; in a doctor’s call room which was frequented by other doctors, etc. I am sure that under these stressful circumstances, no matter how engorged I became, my own milk would have refused to exit the sanctity of my breasts! It is unfortunate that many in our society have not recognised that we are not pumping for convenience – we are pumping to keep our babies alive! This new law is a huge victory for moms. Thank goodness someone “up there” is looking out for our babies.
Do you have an interesting pumping story to share? What do you think of the new law?
Photo credit: Renjith Krishnan: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=721