Reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding mothers - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The thread about the med student suing for breaks got me thinking about what the overall goal of the lactivist community should be with regard to accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work (or quasi-work environments like a professional exam).

So what do you think is reasonable? Unpaid breaks to breastfeed? Paid breaks? Should employers provide space for pumping? Should breastfeeding mothers get "extras," or should their right to use existing time and facilities for breastfeeding purposes be protected? I'm interested in discussing what would be workable in the context of contemporary business, not so much in what would be ideal after the anarcho-socialist mama revolution .
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#2 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 06:17 PM
 
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Well, I wrote a submission to the Cdn gov't about this, you might be interested in reading it.

http://www.fls-ntf.gc.ca/en/sub_fb_14.asp

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#3 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 06:22 PM
 
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I think it really depends on where you work. For example, when I was teaching I could not have taken breaks to pump or nurse. Teachers are not even eligible for overtime or coffee breaks! But, my friend who works in finance had a special room designated just for her to pump in and did so every 3 hours for months.. Another friend pumped 2X a day in a special room and had her dh bring baby by once a day for a nursing break. Both employers were fine with mamas setting their own schedules. Teachers do not have that luxury. So, having a standard would have to be low to accomodate all employment situations. Might be better just to have it be voluntary.
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#4 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, another thing I thought about was that laws I have seen regarding employment and breastfeeding have seemed pretty weak - like, employees must be allowed to use their preexisting breaks to pump, and employers "may" provide a pumping room (but don't have to). But, I suppose if your employer really wanted to stop you from pumping on your lunch break, it's good to be protected.

Janice, your link isn't working for me.
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#5 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 08:03 PM
 
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I don't get paid by the hour, so I don't have the question of paid vs unpaid breaks. It was my goal to not let pumping get in the way of anyone else's schedule or workload. I took 2 breaks during the day to pump, sometimes up in the milk bank, which was pretty far away, and sometimes in an unused office in which I could continue working, depending on my workload. My day was longer as a result. I also pumped on my commute. In return, I expected (although never explicitly stated) not to be disturbed needlessly ("hey, where's the stapler?") while I was pumping. So I guess I felt that it was my responsbility to work it into my schedule and not let it disturb anyone else's.

If people are paid by the hour, or are monitored for break time, you obviously need more protection. I think you should be given protected, but unpaid time- that seems most fair to those non-lactating coworkers, I think. It would hopefully be appealing to the company as decreased absenteeism for parents and whatnot. Clean private space is needed, and not too much to ask for. My coworkers got irritated if I used the fridge for storage, so I ended up buying one for my office. Maybe that you could advocate that there needs to be clean private space, but also a place for washing up and storage. Still not too much to ask, in my mind.

Clearly, this is all based on my narrow view of different work situations.
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#6 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 08:24 PM
 
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lactating is a temporary state, and i wish it would be understood and accepted that the time that it takes a mother to pump would just be a part of her day and not considered a 'break'. i think that most mothers would not take advantage of this. in the grand scheme of things, giving a mother time to pump would still save companies many dollars in insurance premiums as well as lost work days since breastfed babies tend to be healthier overall so less doctor's appointments.

the best thing would be for there to be more on-site day care, so that mothers could actually NURSE their little ones instead of having to pump!!

just like fair trade/wage practices, the sacrifice that a company would make to accommodate a lactating woman's needs would have greater societal implications and i wish that more business would be more forward thinking. but now we're treading on anarcho-socialist mama revolution territory...
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#7 of 11 Old 09-14-2007, 09:07 PM
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I'm in a country with better bfing policies than the US, so this may be leaning towards the socialist mama revolution but I think it would be reasonable to legislate, as a minimum:

1. Unpaid breaks, length and frequency determined by the mom.

In the case of the med student, she has a medical breastfeeding expert supporting her time requests -- that seems like a decent standard for necessity.

2. Pumping facilities made available.

Providing a space to pump is very feasible in most work environments -- a closet with a chair, light, desk and outlet would be fine.

I believe that in Norway, WOH women are entitled to 1-2 hours of breaks per day to pump or nurse their baby. I am not sure if they are paid or unpaid.

The fact of the matter is, breastfeeding is a public health issue. It isn't just about a mother's right to pump. It's also about a baby's right to get breastmilk, and there should be broad societal support for this.

professor & maman de DS1 (6) & DS2 (1)

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#8 of 11 Old 09-15-2007, 02:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ~pi View Post

The fact of the matter is, breastfeeding is a public health issue. It isn't just about a mother's right to pump. It's also about a baby's right to get breastmilk, and there should be broad societal support for this.
beautifully stated.
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#9 of 11 Old 09-15-2007, 05:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yellowpansy View Post
I think it really depends on where you work. For example, when I was teaching I could not have taken breaks to pump or nurse. Teachers are not even eligible for overtime or coffee breaks! ... Teachers do not have that luxury. So, having a standard would have to be low to accomodate all employment situations. Might be better just to have it be voluntary.
I understand where you're coming from, but I have a have a slightly different take on the issue than you.

I think that as teaching is currently structured where you live, teachers can't take breaks to pump. But there's no reason why teaching couldn't be restructured to be a little bit more accommodating. It's not that far-fetched to imagine a school day with more breaks for teachers. If the school administrators had to do it, they would figure it out. They're just not motivated yet. [And in a more-far-fetched fantasy, I can imagine classrooms to which you could bring your infant. Or where you could pump during class.]

You'd have to have some sort of exception in the law for professions where, due to the nature of the profession it simply wouldn't be possible to pump. But IMHO it would have to be something inherent to the profession itself, not just due to non-essential choices someone has made in deciding how to structure the profession.
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#10 of 11 Old 09-16-2007, 04:04 AM
 
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Originally Posted by hypatia View Post
I understand where you're coming from, but I have a have a slightly different take on the issue than you.

I think that as teaching is currently structured where you live, teachers can't take breaks to pump. But there's no reason why teaching couldn't be restructured to be a little bit more accommodating. It's not that far-fetched to imagine a school day with more breaks for teachers. If the school administrators had to do it, they would figure it out. They're just not motivated yet. [And in a more-far-fetched fantasy, I can imagine classrooms to which you could bring your infant. Or where you could pump during class.]

You'd have to have some sort of exception in the law for professions where, due to the nature of the profession it simply wouldn't be possible to pump. But IMHO it would have to be something inherent to the profession itself, not just due to non-essential choices someone has made in deciding how to structure the profession.
Yes! For instance, for teaching/teachers - how about hiring people who managed recess (and actually having recess) - and allowing bf mothers to pump during recess times (for elementary and middle school)? We too often assume that the way things are, is the way they should be - when sometimes the real reason is simply tradition.

I think for starters, the reasonable accommodations should be:
1. Guaranteed pumping breaks twice daily (assuming lunch would not be counted amongst these breaks, since most moms could pump during lunch as well, that would be three breaks/day). I think initially, the breaks would need to be unpaid (unless the worker could demonstrate that she was still working while on break). But over time, I don't see why that couldn't be phased out and pay continue throughout pumping time (I think when it's unpaid, it discourages mothers -- among other things, many would probably end up working an extra hour if possible, to make up the lost wages).

2. Expected additional break time during exams to accommodate average pumping needs for breastfeeding mothers during day-long exams (i.e., MCAT, LSAT, FE etc.). This, to appease the "unfair to have more breaktime" people, could be extended to everyone taking the exam, if necessary.

3. NIP OK anywhere, any time that the mother (and infant) would normally be allowed to be if they weren't bfing - with penalties for attempting to impede that.

4. Employers should be encouraged via tax breaks to provide pumping rooms; and companies over X number of employees should be required to have a designated facility available for this purpose (I don't know what # is reasonable - 100?). It wouldn't have to be used for that unless someone requested it, but it should be available and they shouldn't be harassed for asking to use it (I have a friend who was harassed at the university she worked at, for requesting that a room be made available for her and another mom to pump in - ironically, harassed by the nursing program which wanted to use the room for an office, instead).

**
I too am a dreamer who'd like to see children allowed at work with their mothers (where appropriate/acceptable) - at the courthouse here, it's been policy for infants under six months to be able to come to work with mom, as long as she's not in a public interaction type position. But I don't think the above 4 suggestions are that difficult, nor are they that unreasonable. Quite a few employers don't bat an eye at their smoking employees taking longer and more frequent breaks (usually paid!) than their breastfeeding employees would be taking to pump.

Not all who wander are lost.
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#11 of 11 Old 09-18-2007, 12:27 AM
 
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I think part of it would depend on the workplace / type of job. I'm a firefighter/paramedic. There's no way my department could guarantee me any sort of scheduled breaks. If we don't have calls, I would be able to pump whenever. But, if we spent 24 hours straight doing calls, then no pumping breaks available. I don't see any way around that (for this type of job)

On the other side of it, I chose this job. In some ways, it's not the most family-friendly occupation. In other ways, it is. Potential inability to pump for a child vs. 5 days home with him while working FT.

Just my thoughts

Jen
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