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New breastfeeding law: Why am I not impressed?

Categories: Push my Button

6 comments

By now you’ve heard the news of what was cleverly hidden among the voluminous folds of the recent health care bill: working nursing moms get a break at work. To be specific, they get a break ROOM; that is, a place that’s not a bathroom, where they can pump in private. Yay?

One halfhearted hurrah from me. Gimme a B! And an O! Another O! And another B! Gimme an S! … oh well.

While this is most definitely a step up from having to pump in a cramped (and, *cough*, spotless) bathroom stall or, worse, have no privacy at all, and I have to applaud the fact that maybe this will keep some moms who want to breastfeed nursing longer, it still begs a very important question:

Why don’t U.S. mothers get paid maternity leave?

You want to see something that will blow your mind? Have a peek at these worldwide parental leave charts. I’m stunned. Practically every other country in the world gives mothers 12 weeks or more of paid parental leave. Paid! Even countries not known for human rights like, say, Myanmar. Yep, even Myanmar (used to be Burma, just remember Burma) gives 12 weeks paid leave at 2/3 pay. Rwanda. Uganda. Somalia. Nicaragua. United Arab Emirates. Vietnam! All give leave, paid leave. Most at 100% of pay. United States? A big fat zero. And Canada, you don’t even want to know about Canada. In Canada, you could potentially squeeze out nearly a year, as long as Dad wanted to share his time. Granted the money isn’t fantastic, but it’s something.

All we have is a space that’s not a bathroom.

I mean, yay and all, but jeez. Oh, and all this means nothing if you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, since your employer can claim “undue hardship” and refuse to make a pump space available. Tough tatas on that one.

And the sad part is, we’re all for breastfeeding, for the most part. We nurse one another’s babies in times of need. We have nurse-ins. We fight to not get kicked out of Target or off of Facebook. We even go so far as to shame one another for making a non-breastfeeding choice (we are one weird culture when it comes down to it, aren’t we?).

I was a dismal failure at pumping, and this was in my own home under almost zero pressure. I cannot even fathom having to find a place to do it in the workplace, let alone the time (have we even discussed actual breaks to make this happen, or are we pumping while eating our sandwiches in the bathroom?) Huge wet smacky kisses and kudos to the moms who persevere. I knew a mom once whose baby couldn’t actually nurse from her breast, but mom pumped for nearly a year and they fed from a bottle. And where that story came from, I know there are a ton more.

All you pumping working moms have my utmost respect.

Did you pump at work? How did you make it work for you? Would you do it again? Do you think the new rule makes a difference?

Bonus question if you’re currently pregnant and planning to breastfeed: Do you want to move to Canada now?



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6 comments so far...

  • OK . . . I’m not sure why I put effort into these comments sometimes, but here goes.

    It’s one thing to have a law on the books. It’s another thing to have the general population’s dealings actually reflect the law. How much time have you spent in less developed countries? The US is one of the few countries where people actually expect law-abiding behavior, and where the court system is actually a meaningful forum to deal with everyday people’s complaints. So a list of countries that have a law on the books is meaningless. Even if it were realistic, how much do you think employers are paying these women even when they are working their butts off? And do you think women around the world are getting paid $10 to $100 per hour to sit in a comfortable private room and pump their breasts? Please. And I won’t even get into the pressure women feel to abort their children if they start costing too much.

    Why don’t we have that here? Because it would be very expensive and we would have to pay for it. It’s none of my business if you want to have kids or not, or how many you want to have. Just don’t send me the bill. I don’t understand what is so strange about this reasoning. I mean, if I have to pay for your kid to have every little thing that is “good” for him, then do I also get to make parenting decisions for him? Do I get to decide how much red meat he’s allowed to have and when spanking should be administered? Do I get to order him sent to the religious school of my choosing? Why not, if I’m footing the bill? Is this really what you want? It seems that slave owners were ahead of their time.

    People need to take responsibility for their own decisions, including paying for them. If other countries have gone astray from this principle, that is to their detriment. I have no desire to follow in their footsteps.

    I am so tired of the whining on this topic. Waaah! My mom had six kids, worked full time, and breastfed up to age 2. And she never had a breast pump. Big deal! If you don’t want to go back to work after your child is born, cut your expenses or save up your money before you have a child. What is so complicated about that?

    Did you ever notice how today’s family homes are about twice as big as the family homes of, say, the 1960s (when they usually had more kids)? That is not necessary. Manage your life to achieve the important things that you want. And don’t send me the bill.

    By the way, as a small employer, yes, it would be a burden to build a nursing room. We have only 2 doors in our office - one to the bathroom and one to a small file room. Everyone works in the same office, from the managing partner on down. I suppose you’d have me move to a more expensive office in order to enable someone to pump her breasts. Nice way to put small companies, which include many women- and minority-owned firms (of which mine is both), out of business.

    You know, at some point, somebody has to be in business and make a profit in order to pay for all of these “entitlements.”

    SKL  |  April 14th, 2010 at 8:47 am

  • Oh, I forgot to add. Most American women who work and plan to return to the same job after childbirth do get paid maternity leave. There are plenty of employers who voluntarily offer this benefit. Why do we always talk as if that were not true? Why fix what isn’t broken?

    SKL  |  April 14th, 2010 at 10:45 am

  • Thank you for noting your dismal failure at pumping; me too, I was too. So I did formula when she was away from me and breast when she was with me.
    I’d try pumping again but if I had the same results, I’d do the same thing again, switch to formula while she’s away from me. If I had a child today might be somewhat easier; before the “law” my company had set aside pumping spaces (far better than the less-than-clean bathroom I was offered before) and I don’t think it will make much difference. Companies that support it, already do, the others will grudgingly allow it but you will be a marked person for taking the “opportunity” and the vast majority of women who work in under 50-person firms won’t be affected at all.

    Mich  |  April 14th, 2010 at 10:56 am

  • All right, As the Garima, the interviewee in the CNN article.. I have to say: The support is not there.. No matter how much we argue, we discuss, we debate.
    Yes, may be its not right to compare the rules of AMerica with other developing countries. But I must add: i grew up in a developing country: India: And nursing etc are considered topics out of discussions. Its understood mothers should do this, but there is no support for problems , for issues or even just to say I cant do it.
    It does not matter where you live, or where you are from. The nursing mother is a natural phenomenon and is not given the support structure it needs. Here is my article on Chicago Moms Blog which describes it even better:

    http://www.chicagomomsblog.com/2010/04/omg-i-am-on-cnn.html#more

    GNSD  |  April 16th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

  • Hmmm….interesting.

    I like the “undue hardship” clause simply because it prevents a small employer from just that. Granted, my site office (on a construction site, no less) was simply tucked in a corner and had a full length shower curtain that served as a door (that and an understanding from everyone that if anyone bugged me, our general superintendent was going to open a can of whoop-butt on them)…and I believe that actually would have met the requirements: it was private and somewhat secluded, and out of sight.

    Once I moved back to our main office from a job site, the pres and veep simply decomissioned the upstairs bathroom (its a residential type bathroom) by removing the toilet/covering the waste line (temporarily. Like I said, I work in construction) and pulling a recliner up there. I was able to negotiate paid breaks because I have a laptop and our office works fairly wirelessly anyways.

    Out of my friends? I’m the only one who works for a small firm that received any sort of paid maternity leave. The other friends who received some sort of paid maternity leave worked at LARGE companies (I haven’t checked recently, but we’re talking trading on Wall St. big) or for public universities. Heck, one of my sisters worked for a sub-tier government defense supplier and she received unpaid leave, she was able to make up for most of it (75-80%, I think) with self-paid short term disability insurance.

    And I think Mich hits the nail on the head…companies that have always supported it, will continue to do so. The others will be kicking and screaming forced to comply, and it will put a target on someone’s back for daring to take advantage of the opportunity. And most in small firms won’t be affected one way or another.

    CV  |  April 19th, 2010 at 6:46 am

  • This law doesn’t change anything for me. I live in Minnesota and this law has been on the books. Any company with more than 50 employees needs what they call a “Wellness Room” that can be used for many things. I frankly used my office to pump and people knew not to come in when the door was closed. I still dealt with washing and storing supplies in the communal kitchen, but never received any grief.

    I did not receive paid time off and work for a company with over 800 employees. I am a member of a moms group and know of no one who got company-paid time off. I did get short-term disability for 6 weeks and could also use vacation time to extend my leave. But there was no company paid time off. Interestingly, we have offices around the globe and I know women in European offices do get paid time off, but the company justifies that by saying they need to meet cultural standards in each geography we work in.

    That said, paid time off would have been great. I think it’s something companies could do to support employees who have families. It speaks to an organization’s sensitivity to work/life balance which is vital to many people. I realize employees without kids don’t see this as fair; they just see others getting something they aren’t. It’s a tough issue and I think it would take a lot to shift in this direction. I think one factor to consider is the number of people who know they are not returning to work but don’t share that info until after they get whatever money they can (i.e. disability and vacation time). I think that has left companies skeptical and unwilling to give you more than they have to because they will get no return on their investment.

    AW  |  April 22nd, 2010 at 9:40 am

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