Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pumping rooms at work: the magical solution?

A friend of mine shared this article with me, and I just thought I would jot down a few comments regarding it. It concerns employers being obligated to provide pumping rooms for breastfeeding mothers.

First, I believe it truly heartbreaking that mothers to young babies must go back to work – or pressured into thinking they must, which at the bottom line gives the same result. And not just because of breastfeeding, of course, even though it's certainly a crying shame to miss out on the wondrous experience of nursing one's babies.

Second, I don't think employment should be a charity institution. If there's a company that employs young mothers and decides it's still profitable, even with maternity leave, pumping rooms, more sick leave and all the related costs, that's one thing. But if a company doesn't gain, only lose, from hiring mothers to young children, and is still required by law to hire them and provide certain conditions which aren't profitable to the company, it's not fair to the employer and other employees. If I had been an employer, I certainly wouldn't like to have to hire someone who will eventually cost me more money than they bring in. Even if it sounds very callous, and even if they need the money very badly. It isn't good for the economy to turn employment into charity.

I do believe in anti-discrimination laws, as long as they come in a form of protection against pointless discrimination. Once the condition in question starts to influence actual performance and/or company profit, I think that's a legitimate concern, not discrimination. If an essential part of the company work is completed on Saturdays and can't be moved to any other day of the week, this company shouldn't be forced by "anti-discrimination laws" to hire Orthodox Jews. If the job requires certain physical capabilities, people with physical limitations who can't do it without excessive help aren't supposed to be pushed in. And so on and so forth.  

Now, to the actual question of pumping rooms. Of course, if a nursing mother must go back to work, it's wonderful if she can continue breastfeeding her child. But is pumping really a solution for everyone? Is it even for most?

The following statement really grates on my nerves:

"The notion that if you have a baby or are nursing you should stay at home -- it's just a historical notion these days."

The idea of having your cake and eating it too is part of dangerous, misleading, elusive rhetoric promoted by feminism. This is just one example of it. Yes, there probably are women out there who work outside the home full-time and succeeded in never giving formula to their babies, and that's wonderful, when there is no choice for a woman but to go out to work. But the home environment is certainly more conductive to breastfeeding than being apart from the baby for many hours a day.

Not all of us have equal milk supply or equal milk storage capacity. Some of us have extra and can pump plenty, some of us can't. Personally, I can tell I never managed to obtain any significant amount of milk using a pump. On the rare occasions I needed pumped milk, I had to store up in advance by having my baby nurse on one side and pumping on the other side when I felt letdown. The delicate combination of hormones released by the nursing mother while holding her baby to her breast, hormones that promote milk production and release, does not work the same way with a breast pump.

There was also a time when I had to nurse every hour to perk up my supply. It would not, of course, have been possible if I spent any significant amount of time outside the home. So I don't feel at all happy about statements that say, "Women who work outside the home can always continue to provide all the breast milk their babies need if they just pump." It's not as simple as that.   

Of course, nursing is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire trend to create a "family friendly working environment" is an illusion. No occupation that takes a mother away from her young children for many hours a day is truly family friendly.  

29 comments:

Persuaded said...

I was in the sad position of having to return to work when my oldest was only 6 weeks old... I hate even thinking about those days *shudder* I pumped while at work, and like you said, it was very difficult to get a decent amount of milk... and I have always had a very bountiful milk supply. I remember having to pump in an empty office and once the developmentally disabled custodian walked in one me. It was so embarrassing for both of us and after that incident I never was able to relax enough to get a let down. Like you said, it's a very delicate balance.

I think the biggest problem I have with the ideas presented in these sorts of articles is the idea that feeding an infant pumped breastmilk is an easy thing for the mother and is equal in benefit to the child to breastfeeding. I have even heard folks who are against public nursing to say that they don't understand why women don't just pump and feed their child from a bottle when they need to be out in public. It just shows such a colossal ignorance of the mechanics of breastfeeding, not to say a colossal disrespect of the mother-child relationship/bond.

Kat said...

I am a teacher and many of my friends who are new mother's pump on their lunch break. We all support one another so we always manage to find a room in the school (with a lock) where the moms can have some privacy. I think it is wonderful that they can keep up their nursing if that is what they choose to do. While many in the working mom vs. stay at home mom strive to make mothers who work as guilty as possible (and to see the irreparable damage they are causing their children) this doesn't need to be so. I applaud any employer who makes provisions for a pumping mother. When all agendas are laid aside I think our children benefit (even in these times when so many mothers are having to work just to put food on the table). I think society could stand to be a little less callous and self-centered, myself. Blessings on your soon-to-be little one, Anna!

Mary M said...

Hi Anna,

This is a really interesting post...it covers such a wide range of issues.

I hope you won't mind me expressing a few thoughts though...

I can't really get on board with what you're saying here. I do of course understand the sentiment that mothers should be encouraged and enabled to be with their children as much as possible, but the idea of removing benefits such as nursing rooms in offices just doesn't work in my mind.

There seems to be a common double standard amongst conservative religious folks (of which I am one). We are deeply concerned about the rising abortion rates and are keen to demonstrate that all unborn children have a right to life, and yet we seem unwilling to make concessions to those mothers, of which there are many, who find themselves unmarried, possibly alone and pregnant.

We tell single expectant mothers that abortion does not have to be the answer, but at the same time, we endeavour to make it less easy for them to do that which they need to do to raise a child; work outside the home.

Breastfeeding is a right of all mothers and babies, in my view. I believe it is no hardship for *most* employers to provide a small room or space where mothers can express their milk, or nurse their babies. I agree that employment should not be viewed as charity, but employers should and do have to extend certain rights to their employees.

Being 'family friendly' is one of those rights employees should be able to expect.

Otherwise, what message are we sending to vulnerable mothers? Need to work and want to breastfeed your baby? Tough. You'll have to choose.

I understand that most working mothers probably don't need to work and could stay at home with their children, if their families simply made some lifestyle adjustments. But there are countless more that are alone, without support and have to work full time to live.

I apologise if I seem abrupt here, I just think the implications of what you are saying are actually quite grave.

Emilie said...

You make some very interesting points, Anna! In Canada, we get 1 year maternity leave. By that 1 year, most women will not still be nursing (sadly, our breastfeeding rates aren't nearly what they sould be). I do agree that companies should not be required by law to give out extra breaks and reserve a room for pumping, but I warmly applaud those who do out of generosity. Good for you for presenting the other side of the economics coin - I'd never thought of it that way before.

Suze said...

I agree there is not a simple solution. I worked and pumped and managed for while. I would find any empty space and try. Some days were better than others as I was shift working as a nurse. Both times I managed to feed my milk for an extended time but it came at a cost. My peers and supervisors hated it and my 30 minute lunch was not long enough.
In the end you do what you need to do. In an ideal world this would not be a problem and I refuse to judge someone for the choices they employ to do the best for their family.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Anna. Everything you say is true. Unfortunately, I had to return to work when my first child was only 5 months old, but I was determined that I would continue to breastfeed. Not only was it difficult to pump - I actually dispensed with the pump after my midwife showed me how to use hand expression - but it was also very difficult to find a childcare provider who understood what I was trying to do. God provided and both problems were eventually resolved. But I would never want to encourage a young mother to do what I had to do! There is a lot of extra stress, and milk supply tends to go down under those circumstances. When my daughter was 15 months old, I had to start working the night shift, and my milk dried up.

Amelia B. said...

"It isn't good for the economy to turn employment into charity."

This is so well-stated, Anna. I´m American but studying in Spain, and I find it remarkable how much social burden European employers are supposed to shoulder. Instead of encouraging fathers to work and mothers to stay at home, thus increasing the ¨productivity¨ and focus of both parents, the EU wants its companies to bend over backwards trying to reverse nature- offering or forcing paternity leave, for one example. Even though these paternity programs have failed in many countries (the men just don´t want that much time off), my professors continue preaching the benefits of making the workplace completely friendly to mothers. If women want to work, that´s fine, but as you´ve said, Anna- why on earth should businesses have to hire employees who will be a burden and not an asset?

If mothers stayed at home, the productivity of the workforce would increase greatly. This would increase the wages of the fathers who were trying to support their families on a single salary. Where is the downside to this arrangement?

I hope all is well with your growing little ones... thank you for your insight and joy! Your positive and gentle perspective is a breath of fresh air. :)

Stephanie said...

"No occupation that takes a mother away from her young children for many hours a day is truly family friendly."

Amen! I love your blog--you speak firmly and do not compromise your convictions, yet you do so in a non-pushy, non-offensive manner. Oh, that I might develop that skill before I stick my foot in my mouth too many times more....

sc said...

The government has to put their nose into EVERYTHING. People aren't allowed to run their businesses the way they want to. Good or bad. That's how unions got started. It sounds good in theory, but all it is rights given to someone by taking them away from another.

Man's ideas rarely pan out.

God's do, though. God is all for justice.

Sheesh.

mom-e-mae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
åslaug abigail said...

I liked this post =)
I agree with you that there's not really any occupation that takes a mama away from her babies that at the same time can claim to be "family friendly". They say the same about kindergardens (I've been working in quite a bit of them on and off, sometimes months sometimes days) that the children stop missing their parents after the first weeks. Not true.

I'll definitely visit again =)
Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog! =)

Blessings to you and your husband, and two littlest loves (because I did understand from the pregnancy ticker at the top that you're expecting bundle of joy #2?) =)

Oh, and I love the picture under Domestic Felicity =) very pretty, romantic and artistic!!

åslaug abigail

Mrs. Anna T said...

Mary,

I think you missed part of my point; what I meant is not that life should be *made* hard for those mothers who must work, but rather, that work situations should be truly fair. For many employers, hiring mothers of young children turns into a huge financial burden when they feel they would rather hire someone who can be more committed to work. Pumping rooms are just the tip of the iceberg. How about the continuous struggle to find temporary employees when women go on maternity leave? There are two sides to the coin. Not only a mother who sometimes, sadly, needs to provide for her children, but an employer who needs to take company profits into consideration, usually also for his own family's sake.

Also, I have a huge problem with how *easy* they make pumping sound in the article. Typical feminist philosophy. "You can have it all, you can do it all, it's easy!" Not so. And of course, just like Diane (Persuaded) said above, bottle-feeding pumped milk is just NEVER the same as taking a babe to the breast. Part of what makes nursing so natural and wonderful is the purely perfect, simple beauty of it. No bottles, no interventions, just mother and child. Hours of holding the baby, infinite closeness. How different that is from pumping milk and letting someone else give it to the baby in a bottle.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Aslaug, welcome and thanks for coming by at this time - I'm sure you are *very* busy now with your wedding preparations, and all the excitement surrounding it.

We are due in August. Very, very excited to be expecting another beautiful blessing to join our family.

The header photo is from our wedding - it has been two years and though I sometimes think I should update the header, I simply can't find heart to do it. :o)

MacKenzie said...

I'm due with my first next month and have been attending La Leche meetings to prepare. I'm blessed to be able to stay at home but hearing the working women's stories of the trials of pumping and all that comes along with working outside the home really make me feel for them. It takes so much more time and effort (to pump and take extra efforts to keep up their supple, clean and sterilize bottles, make sure their baby is getting the right amount, etc.) than if they were at home.

I do hope that companies will provide decent arrangements, especially since in most cases it is beneficial for them since it isn't asking much for a private area for nursing to be arranged and the mother/worker will take less sick leave, etc. But I agree with you Anna, to imply that pumping is easy is doing a disservice to those mothers who are putting in the hard effort to try and make the best choice they can for their baby given their circumstances. Most of the articles and books I read don't do a good job acknowledging the challenges and understanding the hardships while not discouraging new mothers from trying if they know they will be going back to work.

Mary M said...

Hi again Anna,

Thanks for replying to my comment! I do understand what you're saying here...I think maybe there is a basic cultural difference at work here. In the UK, most working women, at least the ones that I know, work for big, national or global companies. If employees did not have their rights fiercely protected, employers would feel quite free to exploit and discriminate in order to squeeze as much profit as possible, regardless of who was hurt in the process.

Perhaps it is the just the nature of working life in the UK. Certainly my own employment history, working for an international telecommunications company has coloured how I view the working world very sharply. Maybe in Israel things are very different.

Either way, I hope you don't perceive my earlier comment to be indicative of how I view your writings on other subjects, since I sincerely enjoy reading your blog!

Jo said...

I just wanted to add one comment regarding the comment "continuous struggle to find temporary employees when women go on maternity leave?"

When I was managing a team (mostly women), it wasn't the women with children that was my problem - I knew if they were taking time for maternity leave and I had plenty of time to organise replacements. It was the young workers (20-25) who would work for a while and then go off on overseas trips. And whilst away contact me and ask for an extension of leave. They also didn't stay in their jobs for long, so I wasn't always keen on employing young single people.

Many women who do return to work after children are very dedicated workers and their productivity is very high - they are there to work as it is often a necessity so they are going to put in 110%. They are more mature and sensible!

I have worked in organisations with "Carer Rooms" that can be used for a range of purposes so it isn't a difficult task for a employer to provide a room to be used for "pumping" or "sick" room.

Anonymous said...

No, don't update the header! It is so beautiful! Mary R.

Sunny said...

I don't have a lot to add, just the perspective of an adoptive mom of a child now over the age of 18. I was able to stay home with him for the time we had him (we were his foster parents first, then adopted him two years later at age 13). ust a bit of background to share where I'm coming from.

I'm a nurse and we have 3 new moms at my work, a nursing home and rehab center. Two of our therapists recently had babies as well. Two of the moms were able to stay home for three months, one was able to stay home for two months, one is still on leave, and sadly the last one came back to work after just 5 weeks.

The pumping at work IS a problem for the remaining nurses on the floor who have to "cover" their patients while they pump. They take their two 15 minute breaks together in one 30 minute PAID break, and then take a 30 minute unpaid lunch break. This is very hard on their patients and the other staff.

Being nurses, this is a mostly female employed environment, and most of the other women have been in this position and are very understanding. I think I have more of a man's perspective because I've never nursed, was able to stay at home with my son, etc.

Finally, I see and hear a lot of bad breastfeeding advice being given to these women. One is able to pump 6 ounces at a time and says she doesn't have enough milk for her baby, so she is supplementing--baby gets a bottle of formula between each bottle of expressed breast milk. 5 weeks old, and 6 ounces at a time! He also has reflux...and I can't help but wonder where the problem really lies.

Another quite b/f'ing at 3 months, "that's long enough". It's so sad! The feminist "ideal" that you CAN do it all is insane.

Suze said...

Sunny where I worked this double dipping of breaks would not have been tolerated. We had two ten minute breaks and one was always just after handover. So 20 minutes into our working day we had our first break. The second was always 30 minutes and in that ward it had to be taken on the ward.

In many ways it was sad. Health professionals advocate that mother's milk is better but nothing was done to enable us to feed our babies while we worked. No quiet area etc. In fact while my second was in NICU my milk was thrown away and the baby given formula. My paediatrician was furious.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I'm going to take a hard line here and state, as a mother of two, that the only 'family-friendly' workplace is one that allows you to place your infant in a sling and head off to work, pausing to nurse whenever necessary.

I have a workplace like that, a Catholic-run tutoring center. If my baby whimpered while I was teaching, I'd just put on the nursing cover and latch her on. From what I've heard, clerical positions at Christian churches tend to allow that kind of thing, and I went to one doctor's office where the office worker had a toddler running around playing with her toys behind the desk.

Now that's a 'family-friendly' workplace.

(Even so, I'm quitting the tutoring job for the summer and possibly for longer. With my daughter just starting to walk and my son finishing up 1st grade homeschooled, there just aren't enough hours in the day!)

Analytical Adam said...

As a guy even these women that are in the workplace today have this attitude of entitlement which does not make them a worker that is so beneficial. They think because they were born a woman they are entitled to everything which yeah the men in the government will give them at the expense of others and especially young men.

Here in the United they just passed a so called health reform bill that requires these brestfeeding rooms. THis bill also limits the type of insurance you can get. In general the bill hurts the most young men who usually have low health costs. This bill I don't think you can discriminate.

Any person that runs a company he or she it usually is a he had to put in much time to start a company and for people to just think a company owes them something is a horrible attitude.

Analytical Adam said...

I don't know one case where anti-discrimination laws have worked. In every case they lead to a sense of entitlement by a certain group and discrimination to those who aren't part of this group.

In terms of anti-discrimination laws for "pointless" reason well who decides that. I don't see where the torah suggest we make laws like this. It does say we shouldn't be harsh to those that are strangers but this is something that since it is impossible to enforce G-d promises we will be punished if we do but doesn't suggest some earthly laws to not be overly harsh to someone and at the end of the day this bad interpersonal skills will backfire on you. You can't have a few men in the government or Rabbi's micromanaging what other men do which at the end of the day actually is discrimination if you think about it to treat men who run a business like this that you who don't run a business should dictate to those who do run a business who to hire and who not to. As you Mrs. Anna at the end of the day who is to create a product or service and hire people to provide this product or service if they are told by some hack who they can hire and who they can't and what is considered "pointless" discrimination.

At the end of the day a business that makes hiring decisions on .
capricious reason's or sometimes for political reason's or nepotism will not do well. I don't see how could you make laws to enforce this as how do you know the reason why this person isn't hiring someone. Maybe to you it is pointless but not to the employer who has a little more experience of what has and hasn't worked. It is easy for some hack who doesn't run a company to think something is pointless.

Some people view everything as antisemitism or whatever and many times it isn't. Someone just doesn't like your behavior and maybe they have a point. There is antisemitism (including much by Jews themselves including so called Orthodox Rabbi's that support vicious propaganda about Jewish men) but not everything is and some people who may not like you may not be antisemitic at all.



In the US before the civil rights laws of 1964 African Americans were becoming more upwardly mobile. Similarly not that I think it is so good but women that never married did make a little more then men in the 1950's. Minorities today are in a horrible state in the United States and the anti-discrimination have created an attitude of entitlement which is just bad for a person to live this way that their life is somehow more important then someone else.

Shelly said...

Not all women have a choice in whether or not to return to work after having a baby. Since I provide the health insurance for my family through my employer, I am one of those women.
When my son was 7 weeks old, I returned to work with my breastpump in tow. In fact, I had told my employer that the only way I could return to work after maternity leave was if I was allowed time to pump each day. They were more than happy to agree to that and since I have an office to myself with a locking door, the circumstances were perfect. I was able to pump 16 to 24 ounces a day with no problem, so I had plenty of milk to send to daycare with my son. The daycare provider had no issues with heating up breast milk instead of mixing formula for him and they had a deep freezer where I could store a weeks worth of milk.
I would not make a good stay-at-home mom. My son loves daycare where, at 2 years old, he's learning much, much more than he would be learning at home with me. He's very bright, speaks better than most 4 year olds, and has amazing social skills.
He weaned from the breast at 24 months with no problem. I plan on having another baby in a couple of years and that baby will be raised the same way...with love from a working, nursing, pumping mommy who does what she has to do to help provide for her family.

So yes, in some cases, pumping on the job does work wonderfully.

AnneK said...

Hi Anna, It has been ages since I read/visited. You are in my reader, but have hardly any time to read/comment. Just have 2 minutes and wanted to chime in as someone who pumped at work. I agree with you. It is definitely not easy, especially for someone like me who had lots of issues with supply. I am not contending any of that. I work from home now so I really don;t want to get into any of those points in your post. The ONLY thing I wanted to say is that, you are totally under a delusion if you think that poor breastfeeding mamas are the drain to the company. Do you think these "hard working" men are no drain? At least in my profession, most of the time (if there is no work) they are on facebook, games, and generally wasting time. I used to work harder when I was pumping (to make up for time) than my boss who would be wasting time. Unless the man is working in a field farming or something, they are an equal (or more of a drain) than a hardworking breastfeeding mother. I am not saying this lightly and if women worked in these same professions they would know it too.

By the way, I take it you are pregnant again? CONGRATS and hope you have a safe and happy pregnancy.

Mary said...

I'm sorry to say I really disagre with your stance on accommodations for employees in the workplace. By your logic, people with physical disabilities should never be employed either, since the ramps, wider doors, braille signs, etc. that may be needed to accommodate such people would fall under the rubric of "charity" on the part of the employer.

In fact, people do have certain basic rights that employers are or should be obligated to recognize. Where I live, it's the law that all businesses must be accessible to someone with a physical disability -- that IS only fair, since many excellent employees may not be blessed with a perfect level of physical ability.

What on earth is wrong with compassion in the workplace? Would it not horrify you to learn that a company was so concerned with its profit margin that employees became mere objects, disposible when no longer perfect in every aspect?

I think that kind of balance between profit and a healthy morale in the workplace is something compassionate people like yourself should strive for, not condemn.

MrsKassandra said...

Hi Anna,

I am having some mixed emotions about this post, for a few reasons. First, I'm a new mother of a beautiful 8 month old little girl, and I have to work part time outside of our home in order for us to have health insurance. I do not enjoy the arrangement, but it is necessary. Secondly, I am an avid supporter of breastfeeding but have severely inverted nipples and a good latch simply never happened..despite the help of lactation consultants,nipple shields, and lots of stress and shed tears. However,I am proud to say that my baby gets entirely breastmilk. I pump, at least 6 times a day, and have for the last 8 months. I do not supplement, and I suppose its not quite ' the same' but the satisfaction I get from knowing my daughter is getting the best possible nutrition is the same that a 'regular' bfing mom would have. I rent a hospital grade pump from a local pharmacy. It wouldn't be possible with a basic pump.

So I guess this is all to say- that pumping can quite possibly be a great alternative, if for whatever reasons breastfeeding doesn't work. I feel like we exclusively pumping moms don't get much support or encouragement from the breastfeeding community, and it makes me sad. It doesn't always 'nurse or formula'..there is another choice.

Also, I think that a storeroom or empty office to pump is a small concession to make in exchange for a good employee. And like the other poster pointed out, if we are to be supportive of moms and babies- even those who have to work or are single moms and going it alone ( God bless them, I can't imagine)..these things are important.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Shelly, I'm glad things worked out for you the way they have. But what portion of employees has an office to themselves?? I certainly never had a quiet corner in any of the jobs I ever had. Pumping wouldn't have worked out even if I was allowed to pump. I just think the writers of such optimistic articles must keep it real.

AnneK,

I absolutely agree with you that wasting time at work does not depend on the gender. I have seen both men and women whiling away time on the internet, chatting to each other while they should have been working, etc. However there is also the "disruption" in the form of maternity leave, which means the company must seek out, and pay for a temporary employee. If it happens just once it's one thing. But what if it happens every 1.5-2 years?

Mary,

I'm not saying people with physical disabilities should never be employed. But if I had a physical disability, I wouldn't like to be pushed through by various legislations while knowing my employer doesn't really want me. I would only want to work (hypothetically) for someone who believes hiring me is worth the hassle of accommodations, and is willing to do so on his/her own, without anyone breathing down his neck. THEN I would really feel I have achieved something and I'm being useful.

MrsKassandra,

I can only stand in awe at your commitment to breastfeeding. Yes, it's not always either/or. Sometimes pumped milk must be given, and I applaud you for doing what's best under your circumstances.

I agree with you that often, an empty room is not too much to ask. But I still think the decision should rest with the employer.

Anonymous said...

My child never had formula and I breastfed until she was 13 months old, though I returned to work when she was 4 months old. I managed to figure it out so I was pumping once or twice during my work day, always on breaks or my lunch. And in my car.

It wasn't always easy, but it was worth it!

And please understand, while I do think in general women staying home with children is good, it isn't necessarily the best for every family. I am grateful for family leave, breast pumps, etc.

I do believe most mothers of young children work for financial reasons, even if they don't want to admit. We don't wish to discuss our financial situations or speak badly of our husbands. Please take this into consideration.

åslaug abigail said...

It always makes me sad that I can't agree with every opinion in a discussion, still, I can always strive to see it from the other persons view =)

Anna, I don't think I'd ever have the heart to remove the picture either. And it IS beautiful! And it's a symbolic picture of the BEGINNING of your family (marriage would be the base, you know) =)

Your comments on my blog are SO encouraging, I really have no words.. Thank you =)

åslaug abigail