Much of the coverage on Obama’s health care reform law has focused on reducing costs, expanding coverage, and ensuring benefits for children with pre-existing medical conditions. Although the latter is very exciting for our family that includes a son born with a congenital heart defect, the law also supports breast pumping, working moms.
CNN discovered on page 1239 of law that employers with more than 50 employees are required 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.” The lactation room must be provided for up to one year after the birth of a child.
I was able to take my children to work with me and breastfeed on the job without fleeing into a bathroom or private room, but that was largely because I was comfortable doing so and wanted to set a positive breastfeeding example for the other mothers attending my preschool/playgroup. My own mother quit breastfeeding when she returned back to work when I was three-months-old, and my sister pumped when she returned to work. Working moms definitely face challenges when it comes to breastfeeding.
Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this part of the health care law. I understand not every woman feels comfortable breastfeeding in public, and I don’t think that should stop them from nourishing their child. I also understand that pumping is not quite the same as breastfeeding, and I don’t know how I would feel about doing that in public space since I never had to. Giving women a separate place to pump other than the bathroom is a blessing, but I am also afraid it sends a message of admonishing the breast to seclusion. Is pumping the same as breastfeeding? Does the healthcare reform law imply separate rooms in the workplace should be provided for breastfeeding a child too?
I also do not like how the law dictates the lactation room must be available for up to a year after a child is born. I worry employers will simply convert closets to breast pumping rooms, then close them after a year. What if a woman choses to breastfeed beyond a year? Is she back to pumping in the bathroom?
All of the coverage I have seen on this clause of the new law is in praise, but I am not really sure this part of the health care reform law truly represents the “cultural change” it is being called by the media.
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I think this is a huge shift. I’ve been pumping for my daughter since she was 9 weeks old (she’s now 9 months old). I have a really supportive boss who made sure I had a private space to pump. I’m a middle school teacher, so pumping in public is, well, not anywhere near an option. The few times I’ve had to pump in places other than my house or my little room here at school have been extremely difficult. I just don’t let down enough milk when I’m not comfortable.
I’m not breastfeeding my child to be an activist. Nor do I want to show off the girls to my coworkers. They all know that I disappear 3 times a day, which is probably promoting breastfeeding in a passive way. I’m thrilled about the inclusion of a pumping room in the healthcare bill. I think it’s a huge boon to moms who want to feed their kids but don’t want to be a spectacle or a political statement at work. As a fairly private person, I want to feed my kid and do a good job at work. That’s it.
Jennifer Lance says
Liz, good points. I am not sure if the law also includes time away from work for pumping or just the rooms. I know was a pregnant elementary school teacher, I could hardly find time to pee as often as I needed to, so I don’t know how you are able to get away to pump. Flexible schedules are needed for pumping too.
I don’t think the federal government should have the authority to mandate that employers create a lactation room. Breastfeeding is a personal choice and an employer should not have to bear the costs of either building a lactation room or otherwise accomodating that. It’s just another disincentive for employers to grow to more than 50 employees because of the marked increase in taxes and ridiculous legislative requirements, such a creating a lactation room.