In my role as a moderator of an online breastfeeding support group, I see so many young parents preparing for their babies arrival. They read books, attend classes and learn as much as they can about birth and breastfeeding. These parents often come online looking for information on when to start pumping and storing their milk for their baby. They try to decipher their baby's feeding patterns and sleep patterns so as best to accommodate them. These parents are working their butts off! Once they return to work my prayer for them is that things are smooth sailing. Some are lucky and work in environments supportive of new parents, for employers that understand the value of allowing adequate time to pump breastmilk for babies. Sadly, others will experience unfair practices. A group of these parents will actually be victims of blatant discrimination and cruelty!!
Recently, one of parents that I have had the pleasure of supporting online fell victim to some of the most outrageous mistreatment I have heard of in quite some time. She has agreed to allow me to quote her recent post online in regards to what occurred. This mother was approached by her boss and experienced the following discussion:
"Just got told by my upper management that my pumping every 2-3 hours is a burden to my team and it's ridiculous that my child eats that frequently. She also stated I need to seriously consider supplementing her with formula because something has to give as I look 'tired'."
I would like to also add that this occurred the evening that Hurricane Harvey was moving in on the Texas coast. This parent lives in the Houston area.
"I explained. "Look I work 10 various shifts ranging from 7am until midnight (currently working the midnight one and pumping now) and my baby nurses every 2 hours at night. It's tough but it's only for a season I'm fine.'"
Her boss's response:
"Those are excuses and I don't want to hear it ...I'm telling you you are not fine. You look terrible and you will burn out. And it is utterly ridiculous your child eats that often you need to do something before this effects your performance and face other consequences."
This parent stated that she has had no issues since returning to work. Her baby is approximately four months of age. Her boss then added that she should look into postpartum depression. My thoughts of course being that THIS treatment alone would lead to postpartum depression for most parents.
And the hits kept on coming....
"She also had the nerve to tell me to tell my husband to help me more. I was like 'because of my crap schedule he is Mr. Mom all the time. Every evening. Which is 80%. When I'm here he does everything. Every other weekend when I work he provides for her all by himself. Every night awakening, he comforts her. He changes her diaper. So thank you, but he does fine.'"
This may make you think how can this type of discrimination still be occurring in this day and age? What can we do about it? The bottom line is this treatment is out of line. Breastfeeding and working parents are doing everything they can to be good employees and great parents. They should feel supported by those around them and not face stress and anxiety each day that they go to work. If you are a parent experiencing prejudice like this, please speak out!
Formula feeding does not eliminate parenting. Whether parents choose to feed breastmilk or formula to their baby, they should be protected as parents. These parents will go through a period of adjustment when they return to work. Those who work long shifts may take a little longer to adjust. Coworkers, supervisors, etc. should be understanding of these adjustments and supportive of these new parents. The new parents will find their groove and adjust to their new life situation. We should all assume the best of each other and treat each other with respect.
How can co-workers be supportive of new parents?
- Offer to each lunch with them while they pump for their baby. The only way to make breastfeeding more acceptable is to accept it!
- Offer to cover her classroom while she steps out to pump. Teachers often struggle more than most to find the time to pump since they are responsible for their classroom full of kids.
- Bring them a snack and write a note about how they need to keep up their energy. This is so simple and so kind.
- Leave notes of encouragement. If you have been there as a new parent then write a note with the words you wish someone had told you.
- Ask about their baby but only if you are interested.
- Treat them like they are still the same co-worker that they were before they had a baby!
- Tell them that they look great even if they don't. Everyone needs a boost sometimes.
Here are some links to resources where families can file complaints and also find accurate information about your rights as a breastfeeding parent.
Department of Labor
United States Breastfeeding Committee