Federal Provision: Breastfeeding Protected in the Federal Workplace


 The federal government has come a long way in accommodating mothers-to-be throughout pregnancy and post birth or so it seems.  One thing boggles me though – how progressive is the federal government on breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace?    I for one think that if the federal government provides for women to breastfeed or express milk while lawfully in federal  buildings then there should be some type of plan in place to support women who choose to breastfeed.  This may seem like a totally random topic but I currently work in an office that has six identified pregnancies in various stages – second trimester to newborn.   Observing a pregnant women is hardly uncommon in our building but the intricacies that surround supporting a new mother in the workplace are a mystery to me and I am sure to many others.  Having four pregnant women in an office of 30 people it seems like I see a pregnant belly or another all day long. A few of them have been preparing for their babies for what seems like forever and I am not exaggerating!  They are constantly talking about pregnancy, birth, maternity leave and just everything baby.  I have overheard so many conversations about controversial maternal research and healthy baby tips that were discussed all while waiting at the latest doctor’s appointment that I feel like I am now an expert.  I have also been privy to the trials and tribulations of finally having to trade in the normal work clothes for overflowing blouses and pants with the elastic  bands.  And of course, day care is a definite hot topic as there are a few prime day care centers within blocks of our building but just to get on the waiting lists expectant couples have to go through an application process, open houses and the at will interviews. 

 

Hands down though breastfeeding is what peaks my interest the most.  To hear these mothers talk about pricing pumps and training classes and consultants and latching on you have to be proud of their decision but then you come back to – what will you do when you get back to work?    As I write this two of the mothers are out on maternity leave, one has been breastfeeding for about five weeks now and the other gave birth on Friday and her best-friend says she  too has embraced breastfeeding (although with a few choice expletives).  When these ladies return they intend to continue breastfeeding but how will they accomplish this?  We do not have a program of any kind in place to support breastfeeding mothers and I haven’t heard much in the realm of starting one.  I am sure we will be able to find them places to lock themselves away and express milk when they need to but why don’t we have an area that can be designated as such?  Hell, we don’t even have a real employee health suite on site.  When free flu shots were announced for the employees everyone had to trek down the block to another agency’s health office.  Sad I know, but true.

 

The federal government has hailed breast milk  as the preferred and most complete source of nutrition for babies but I guess only while their mothers are able to stay at home with them.  Based on my workplace experience the federal government is anti-breastfeeding.  I am not sure if that is pc but hey it’s my opinion.  Yes – protection is provided for mothers who choose to breastfeed or express milk while lawfully on federal property, yes – we have refrigerators to store the milk, yes – we are given break time throughout the day to take care of personal responsibilities, yes – pregnancy is accepted in the workplace, yes it is okay to talk about pregnancy and breastfeeding in mixed company; but mothers still have no where to breastfeed or express milk.  The break room and restrooms are not acceptable locations for mothers who want to breastfeed and we won’t even discuss the jokes about pumping your breast milk while sitting at your computer station.  Where is the accommodation then for mothers who choose to breastfeed ?  And how then can they be expected to exclusively breastfeed if they can’t express milk?  We are back to where we started, women have to choose to stay at home and breastfeed or come to work while their baby is formula fed…we sure have come a long way.  

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  • crowepps

    The break room and restrooms are not acceptable locations for mothers who want to breastfeed and we won’t even discuss the jokes about pumping your breast milk while sitting at your computer station.

    While I certainly agree with you about the restroom (too germy) I don’t see any reason why a woman couldn’t turn a chair towards a corner of the break room and express her milk.  My daughter did this at her retail clerk job, although admittedly most of her coworkers were women.  It would be nice if they provided some sort of screen for privacy, but I suppose people could just not look.  If some people get all weirded out about knowing ‘what’s going on over there’, then those people could take their break at a different time.

     

    This is a situation where it would be nice if people could make an effort to act like actual grown-ups.

  • sheresej

    I guess agencies across the Federal government haven’t really considered how to implement a breastfeeding program for mothers who are coming back to work.  Unfortunately, if we want mothers to have access to a space to pump, it’s going to require a lot of memorandums, time, and advocates!  The agency I currently work for, which will remain nameless, can barely find space for the individuals they hire to carry out the mission!  Consequently, it is highly unlikely this issue has even crossed their minds!

    It would be great if every Federal agency had some sort of on-site health/meditation room so individuals could come when they’re feeling sick, relax for a few minutes during a break, or to pump milk, but that would require money and resources they’re probably not willing to spend.  After all, if the initiative doesn’t involve defense, national security, or Wall Street, it’s going to be exceptionally challenging to get people to buy-in.  I actually had an opportunity to take advantage of an on-site health room in the corporate world (although they closed it now because apparently they don’t have the money to staff the 2 clinicians who were there–not an excuse I actually believe), and I loved it!  But, we can’t even get Congress to agree on the fact that every American deserves affordable health care, so mandating a room for expressing milk would probably be stalled for decades too!

    I’ll admit that I would probably have an issue with a woman expressing her milk at her desk because there are just too many creeps in the workplace.  But, I definitely agree that the government should ensure they have parameters in place to effectively carry out the recommendations they claim they support.

  • drsowole

    I agree! The federal government has hailed breast milk as the preferred and most complete source of nutrition for babies; however the government does not give all mothers the same opportunity. Breastfeeding is not a priority in America. We may talk about how important it is to breastfeed and how it can benefit the mother and child, but not all women have been given a safe space for this intimate bonding moment. I don’t think that a break room is feasible for this particular experience. Of course, it is ideal if this is the only chose you have, but accommodations should be made for every mother. It is only fair to have a small place equivalent to a nursery where women can breastfeed peacefully without impractical interruptions. In order for this situation to change breastfeeding must become more than a conversation.