Saturday, February 11, 2012

Breastfeeding in the News

It has not been a great week for breastfeeding...
First Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg complains that breastfeeding is going to cost the economy jobs and productivity. He is referring to a part of Obama's Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide reasonable breaktime as well as a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view to either nurse or pump milk for their babies. Stemberg refers to this private space as "lactation chambers."
Then a texas judge upheld a company's right to fire an employee for wanting to pump milk for her baby. From the article I linked  to:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint on behalf of Donnicia Venters against debt collection agency Houston Funding. Donnicia Venters, 30, alleges the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman "because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth."...
Joan Williams, law professor and director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California, Hastings, said, it "makes no sense at all" to say lactation is not a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. 
"Everybody knows that breastfeeding is a medical condition related to childbirth," Williams said.

I do not know much about the law, but I do think it is absurd to say that nursing is not related to birth. But Little Legal's blog explains that the Civil Right's Law says you are only protected against discrimination for things you have absolutely no choice about, unless otherwise specified. The Breastfeeding Discrimination Act only covers pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Therefore she says:  because breastfeeding is a choice and not a medically “necessary” element of pregnancy or childbirth, most judges are not going to think it’s protected from discrimination.

I am happy that I do not have to contend with these issues, but it is mind boggling that these things are still happening in the year 2012! 
My biggest issue with breastfeeding is doing it around people. I am very comfortable nursing in public with a blanket covering me. It does not really faze me but I can see that sometimes it makes others uncomfortable. I am not doing it to make a statement, rather just for convenience's sake.  I do not like feeding babies in bathrooms or hiding in my bedroom unless absolutely necessary.
I do think by (unobtrusively)feeding in public we can do our part to help normalize breastfeeding and make it seem like a natural thing to do. Maybe then we won't have to hear people talking about "lactation chambers" (I mean really??) or listen to dubious claims that breastfeeding is not related to birth.
What do you think?

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