Wednesday, August 20, 2014

National Breastfeeding Month - Respecting Nursing Moms in the Workplace.

August is National Breastfeeding Month.  All I can say is that I wish there was this much exposure to normalize breastfeeding when I had babies.  When Marie was born, I remember feeling so self-conscious when learning how to nurse her.  I felt like I had to leave the room because I was afraid I would make other people feel uncomfortable. 

When Tomas was born, I gave up after three months since it wasn’t working.  Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t nervous to feed him anytime anywhere that maybe we would have had a better chance.

And none of this took into account working outside of the home.

Here is a guest post from one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.  Her name is Ashleigh, and she is my cousin (or as I like to think of it, the sister I never had). 

National Breastfeeding Month Mommy on the Spot Erin Janda Rawlings
Look at that beautiful mama and her sweet daughter!

I asked her to share her experience when this awful incident happened at her office to highlight the need to respect nursing moms in the workplace.


It’s hard to reserve the Mother’s Room at my office.

I work for a large company. There are many nursing mothers and we have to book the room up to a week in advance to get slots that work on our individual pumping schedules. So, when I went to the room at my appointed time to find it occupied, I was frustrated, but I tried to be understanding.

Our days are full of meetings and deadlines. More than once, I’ve arrived late to my pumping appointment. Or worked through the end of it, realizing five minutes late that someone else was waiting outside the door, eager to pump.

So I sat outside the closed door, opened my laptop and let the minutes tick by, enabling the nursing mother in the slot ahead of me to collect her things and finish pumping.

Twenty minutes later, the door opened and a man walked out of the room. He had been using the mother’s room as a quiet place to sit in on a conference call. Another mother, I could forgive. But this, this was unacceptable. (I believe my exact words were, “You’ve got to be f@*#ing kidding me!”)

I understand that I am lucky to have a Mother’s Room at my disposal so that I can continue breastfeeding my five-month old daughter. But, even with these perks, there are still battles that I fight daily in order to be a successful working mother. I don’t need to add men stealing the Mother’s Room to the list.

Unfortunately, even with the benefits my job offers, I find being a working, nursing mother to be extraordinarily difficult. It’s no wonder – even though the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to breastfeed for a full year – most women quit early.

In honor of National Breastfeeding Month and on behalf of all nursing mothers, I ask the following:

1.    Please be sensitive of our time. We are still juggling the same number of meetings, the same tight deadlines and the same client demands. But we’re doing all this with 1-3 additional “meetings” on our schedule: pumping appointments. And those appointments are time sensitive, as any woman fighting through a conference call with engorged breasts will understand.
2.    Please don’t comment on our pumping. I’ve had colleagues ask where I was when they dropped by my desk, only to reply “TMI” when I tell them I was pumping. It’s not gross. It’s not embarrassing. I’m literally just trying to feed my child.
3.    Don’t make it sexual. I’m feeding a child, not filming a porno. Please, don’t make this uncomfortable for both of us.
4.    Give women a chance. I know I’m lucky to have a Mother’s Room at my office. Some mothers at other companies have had to squat in empty offices and even closets. Others don’t have any respite at all (although a necessary update to the Affordable Care Act will change this). Breastfeeding has been proven to be beneficial to babies. Please give working mothers a chance to do this for their children, too.
5.    Please don’t re-appropriate our facilities. Men, you flaunt free reign over the rest of the office. You don’t get to borrow our room, too.

National Breastfeeding Month Mommy on the Spot Erin Janda Rawlings

Thank you for sharing your story, Ashleigh!


New York Mama said...

What a beautiful mom & daughter, Ashleigh! Kudos to you Ashleigh to fight for your daughter's needs.

I am appalled that this prejudice against nursing moms still goes on. Just like so many other of todays headlines that were brought to light even in the 60's, I can't believe how stuck we are as a society. So sorry you had such a hard time too, Erin.

When I breastfed my son almost 20 yrs ago, there were of course issues. I had a fairly easy time at restaurants, parks, malls, even church, etc. I was able to nurse for over a yr. I did have to "work" some problems out when I did a free lance job for a few weeks. Even back then I thought it was outrageous.

I can't imagine how difficult the corporate world makes it! I had a great support system in NYC & a dear older cousin who dealt with these issues 30 yrs prior.

The only way real change is going to come is to keep bringing it to the forefront. Thank you Erin & Ashleigh for doing so!!!

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Thank you for your comment! You are right - talking about it is normalizing it.

Lyndsay said...

Back in 2009, I had to pump in my car on my lunch break. There was no designated was my car or the bathroom. I couldn't even leave my pump parts to dry on the kitchen counter, I had to cover them with a paper towel because they were deemed inappropriate. By my female boss. The only men in the family-owned business office were her husband and grown son, who also had a family and I can guarantee you, didn't give a shit about my pumping bottles and shields. It was absurd.

Mrs. Weber said...

I am so excited to hear this company has a pumping room...AMAZING, even if people are still stupid about pumping. I remember a male co-worker being grossed out when I sterilized my pump parts in the microwave. Just tell them to shove it ;)

The more we talk about it, the more 'normal' it will become. I've forced myself out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion and nursed in public. Sure, I'll get some stares, but I've also gotten high fives. You just keep doing what's best for you and your baby!

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Lyndsay, that is ridiculous! I don't understand what is offensive about any of it, especially pump parts.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Mrs. Webber, again, what is so gross about pump parts?!

You are totally right about doing what's best for your baby and ignoring the haters.

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