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I'm pumped up!

March 7, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
Imagine you go to drop off your child at day care and want to give her a healthy snack before leaving but are told by the staff you are not allowed.

Now imagine you need to go to the grocery store to buy health food for your baby, but your boss, who is a healthcare professional no less, forbids you to go -- even on your own time.

What? That's crazy. Outrageous. Doesn't make any sense, does it?

Now consider that the healthy snack you want to provide or the healthy food you want to gather for your baby is breastmilk.

Does your tune change?

It shouldn't.

But at local workplaces, mothers are being denied the right to feed their babies the food that everyone agrees is the "gold standard" of nutrition.

While at a luncheon meeting of the Ohio Valley Breastfeeding Coalition today in St. Clairsville, I learned other coalition members had been told by employers they couldn't pump milk during their breaks at a local hospital and told they couldn't nurse their babies in a local daycare facility before leaving them for the day.

Obviously, I think this is outrageous, as did others around the table. And so should anyone who knows anything about the benefits of breastmilk (see link).

Not only is breastmilk the "most complete form of nutrition for infants," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it also "contributes to a more productive workforce. Breastfeeding mothers miss less work, as their infants are sick less often. Employer medical costs also are lower and employee productivity is higher."

I feel fortunate that my workplace has a private bathroom that I used to pump milk after returning to work full time when my daughter was 2 months old. I used this room for about a year, twice a day at first, then once a day. It was inconvenient at times, but I knew I was doing the right thing and can't imagine being told I couldn't do it.

I know not every workplace has such a room, but I feel they should provide some sort of private area for pumping, preferably with a comfortable chair and a sink. I've read of some companies offering pumping rooms with cable television, for heaven't sake.

I certainly don't see how an employer can flat-out deny a mother this right to pump milk, especially in a healthcare facility!

(By the way, for the uninformed, if a mother doesn't pump milk during absences from her baby, her milk supply eventually will diminish -- not a good thing. She also could develop infections.)

The same well-known and respected local daycare center that didn't allow a mom to nurse her baby on site before leaving him in their care ( which is a practice all the breastfeeding advocacy groups recommend) also reportedly doesn't allow its employees to pump milk on their breaks.

What's the law? Some states have laws requiring both public and private workplaces to provide a private pumping space. Last summer, Nevada's law went into effect requiring they provide "a clean place for pumping milk near the mother's work station but not in a bathroom." Ohio doesn't have a workplace law for pumping but did pass a law in 2005 allowing mothers to breastfeed their babies in any public or private place where the mother is allowed. It is one of 27 states that has such a law; West Virginia is not.

Get smart, Ohio Valley employers! If you want families to stay here and spend their money here, try being family friendly!

There is so much more to this topic, but I had to get this off my chest (no pun intended).


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