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Nursing Mothers Equal Lazy Employees

Nursing mothers, a hindrance to public progress, or not?

I recently had a debate happen in my household that left me feeling raw and exposed, as if someone had slapped my face on both cheeks.

I was hurt and angry and I decided to give it a few days and see how I felt about it. It has been over a week, and I have to say it is still bothering me. The debate started off as a conversation about working, with a comment being made about a new co-worker who, as the breast feeding mother of a 4-month-old, was utilizing her mandated breaks for expressing milk. This was causing resentment to breed among other co-workers, saying that the company was not staffed accordingly to allow her breaks for this purpose, that she shouldn't be allowed to take so many breaks for this purpose, and that her co-workers were defining her as lazy due to these breaks. As a nursing mother, who had previously believed that there was support in this from this particular source, I was offended at the lack of understanding and empathy.

What happens when a breastfeeding mother returns to work? She has a few options. She can choose to wean completely, feed her child formula during the hours she is working, or she can choose to express her milk to feed to her baby at a later time. Most mothers who choose this option invest in a pump of some kind to help them with this as hand expressing is not very effective and is time-consuming.

For women who choose to continue breastfeeding by pumping at work, there are very few laws in place that protect them. The federal laws mandate that employers with more than 50 employees are required to allow breaks, and provide a place free from intrusion from co-workers and customers that isn't a bathroom for a reasonable amount of time. An employer is not required to compensate the employee for such breaks, but is required to allow them for up to one year following the birth of their child.

So for one year, I get to listen to complaints about a "lazy" woman at work who is making the best decision for herself and her family, and I am sure she is relishing the fact that she is spending her breaks hooked up to a machine that is treating her as if she is a dairy cow. I field frustrations about companies cutting back on the staff and expecting non-nursing mother employees to pick up the slack created by nursing moms. Is there really slack created by nursing moms?

If there is slack created by the breaks that moms take to express milk, why are there no repercussions for those few people who take intermittent smoking breaks throughout the day? Shouldn't they be classified as just as "lazy" as nursing moms in the workplace? Or that coworker we all have had to deal with at one point or another that spends their time completing work at a pace that rivals molasses in winter, stopping to check their phone, eat lunch, stop by the water cooler, and just generally procrastinate? 

It is suddenly really very clear to me why there are no protections out there for nursing moms, especially those who decide to return to work for whatever reasons they have chosen.

I don't want to get into an argument on the merits of breastfeeding, or on the fact that some women have a difficult time with it, or choose not to do it, or aren't comfortable with doing it in public. I don't want to start a Times Magazine worthy online forum debate about it, because that isn't what this is about. I know that some women would like to and can't, I know that some women don't want to. However I am interested on in hearing your thoughts about these women returning to work. Have you ever worked with a woman who used her breaks to continue to breastfeed? What are your thoughts?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laurie Isenberg October 17, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Yes, I have worked with women who used some of their 'break' time to express milk for their little ones. The ones who did also worked on paperwork at the same time. We need to support moms in whatever they feel they need to do to help their babies. Working is hard enough when your baby is young, maybe as a village we need to step up.
unknownauthor October 17, 2012 at 07:05 PM
At my last place of employment there were many new moms who had to utilize their breaks to breastfeed. Most of the time was spent 'rushing' to get the process done as fast as possible and eating at the same time in order to not be reprimanded for taking too long. It's sad, and quite honestly offensive, that people do not realize that this is something that should not be looked down upon. I would have to gander that most women who are breastfeeding are not using it to get away with doing less work, but instead thinking about the positive health effects this will have on their child and themselves. I wish our society would get over the taboo of breastfeeding...it's what we're meant to do...get over it. It would be great if employers would be more understanding of this concept and make it easier for new mom's to do so. I think many mom's quit breastfeeding early because it's becomes such a hassle for them to do. Thanks for writing this article and I completely agree with you!
Terri White October 18, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Thank you for the time you took Amber and Laurie to read and post. While I am a prop breastfeeding individual, I don't want to force it down anyone's throats, but the thought of being made to feel as if I should be reprimanded for it was just too much to take. I am glad that there are people who agree with me, who have been there before.
Meagan Cooke October 18, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I was a breastfeeding mother for both of my children. My first nursed for 16 months, and I had gone back to work after only 8 short weeks after she was born. I am lucky that my employer is completely supportive of breastfeeding mothers and not only provides breaks whenever necessary but also has made "nursing rooms" in all of our offices specifically made for pumping. But just because my employer supports it doesn't mean all of my coworkers understand or support those needing the breaks. There was some jealousy and resentment and I'm sure some of my coworkers may have thought of me as "lazy". But I just reminded myself that I was doing the best thing for my child and it didn't matter what other people thought.
Shawn Stevens October 18, 2012 at 02:43 AM
I am a mother of 6 . I did not breastfeed the first 4 but my second husband convinced me I should try. It was awkward after bottle feeding 4 of my 6 but rewarding to experience breastfeeding my last 2. I am so glad I had the opportunity :)
Shawn Stevens October 18, 2012 at 03:00 AM
One more note.... and to call a breast feeding mom "lazy" That is ridiculous when I bottle fed I had free time.....when I breastfed I was on demand!!!! Just saying having had both perspectives :)
Olga Swarthout October 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
It's time to drag employers into the 21st century. In an era when half of the employees and most of the shoppers are women, corporate America is still ignoring its financial base. Not too long ago, a new mom was hard pressed to find a baby changing station in stores catering to women. Even now, woman have been harassed while trying to discreetly breasfeed at shopping malls that provided no adequate alternative. All women have to become activist to change the old broken system. Here's a start: http://www.mibreastfedbaby.com/
stephanie pytlowanyj October 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I couldn't agree more with Olga. We are an industrialized nation but many of our practices aren't representative of that. As a nurse and mom of two, breast feeding was the absolute best thing I could have done for my two children and they are now 28 and 23. My mom use to drive from the Lansing area to a hospital in Flint, with my daughter, so that I could breast feed my daughter on my break. Mom's that choose to breast feed their babies need support, not judgment.
Olga Swarthout November 15, 2012 at 11:52 PM
You need a Mommy's Milk Truck ! http://www.aol.com/video/milk-truck-lets-women-to-breastfeed-in-public/517539415/?a_dgi=aolshare_facebook
EclecticCitizen December 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I breast feed my children solely for their sake (better for their immune systems, healthier, etc). Breast feeding is a hassle; there is nothing easy about it. My children are grown now, and if I had to do it all again-for 'their' sake, I would do it. Employers do not make it easy, not then and certainly not now for women who choose to breast feed over canned baby formula.

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