No matter what you think about the new Health Care Bill, page 1239 is representative of a new level of acceptance for breastfeeding (and breast milk expression). It requires employers to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
By the time I had a baby and by extension required a place to express my breast milk, I was an RN in a breastfeeding friendly hospital environment(for the staff, the patients-not so much) Although it was tough to find time to pump during a busy ER shift, I was lucky to have a clean and comfortable lactation room to pump. I put my milk in the common fridge (yes right next to food to be consumed by other human beings-the horror!) without even thinking that someone would find it objectionable (no one ever did).
However, not so long ago I was a few rungs lower on the blue collar career food chain. When I was a college student working in busy restaurants, I knew it was transient position for me and motherhood was like Europe, I knew I would go there someday-but I had no plans or even the means to get there. Many of my hard working co-workers were moms and some went through their pregnancies “slinging hash”. I was usually the designated heavy equipment carrier (buckets of ice and racks of glasses) for my with-child co-workers.
I never noticed the lack of a milk-expression room since breastfeeding was not even on my radar, I had Saturday night to think about after all! But I don’t recall any co-worker ever breastfeeding or asking me to watch their tables while they pumped. Where would those moms have pumped anyway? The walk-in? Dry storage? The disgusting bathroom where busy cooks snuck a cigarette? No way! Formula and bottle feeding was the norm. I don’t know if my former co-workers did not breastfeed due to a knowledge deficit or the lack of workplace accomedations. I remember the culture being one of “Don’t make a fuss”and “Don’t upset the boss”. I don’t think they would have had the guts to request a place and a short (unpaid) break to pump.
Many of us have the luxury of flexible schedules and clean places to pump before page 1239 was signed into law. I have read comments that sound like a crotchty old grouch,”I had to walk 5 miles in the snow to pump in a drafty outhouse. But we never complained…” Um, OK. So you were one of the lucky ones. Rush Limbaugh sounded foolish as railed against protecting nursing mothers, although he needed to have the concept of expressing milk for later use explained to him by a caller. So much for intellegent discourse.
Page 1239 does not mandate that moms breastfeed or pump, it simply gives working moms the choice to do so. It requires no funding or appropriations.