Band of Mothers: Breastfeeding at Work

All too often these days, I notice that mothers are the first ones criticizing other mothers, and it breaks my heart.

I recently wrote about a Canadian politician trying to breastfeed her baby without losing her seat as Councillor. And my awesome friends and followers shared it out. One of the first negative comments was from another mother, and it made me sad. I’m going to break it down here.

“She shouldn’t get to bring her baby to work with her in her ‘seat’ all day. This is not what other working moms who breastfeed have to do.”

Unfortunately, you’re right. Most moms can’t bring their babies to work, and I think it’s utter bullsh!t. (See what I did there? With the udder thing?) It’s time to evolve a little faster, people. Not much has changed when it comes to working mothers and childcare. Our society views breasts as sexual, and women as either mothers or working women. In most office situations, we can do a damn fine job with a baby attached, and I’m determined to show that to the world.

“Newborns at work will never be the norm.”

Why not? Because that’s not the way we’ve always done it? You’re either a mom or you know one; you know how well we multitask, and how quiet an attached newborn can be. There are already women doing it; I read a lot about the flack they get, but not one word about the child actually causing any disruption.

Let’s face it, many people just don’t want to be in the same room as a baby sucking on a nipple, which is ridiculous. It’s like we’re a bunch of nine year old boys saying “ew gross!” while pointing and whispering. It’s a mother feeding her child. That’s it.

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Our society has this thing now where if one person is uncomfortable, something must be done to rectify it. Some will read this and say “I wouldn’t be able to work if there was a woman whipping out her boob at work.” Is she getting her work done? Yes? Then why can’t you do yours? If she has a baby latched on and is working fine one-handed, what is stopping you?

“I love breast feeding and support it 100% but this lady is causing trouble.”

Aaaaand there it is. The big but. I support breastfeeding, but [insert non-supportive and/or judgemental statement here.] The crazy thing is that the commenter is currently breastfeeding. And it’s not her first time. She knows how hard it is, but she still can’t just say “you go, girl!” Why can’t we just step aside and let mothers do what they can to provide for their child and also pursue their personal goals? Why do we keep making mothers choose?

I’d like to see a society that values and supports the mother-child pair and recognizes the amazing abilities of women.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, and continued breastfeeding for at least two years. Yet the U.S. is one of only four countries in the developed world with no mandated paid maternity leave. Sure, we have pumping rooms, and pumping laws are getting more common, and pump this and pump that.

We need to shift our priorities so that the focus at work is breastfeeding, with pumping as an emergency backup.

Breastfeeding our babies at work is better, faster, healthier, and easier for everyone involved. Pumping at work just sucks.

I have heard mother after mother talk about how they couldn’t keep up with their baby’s demand while pumping at work. I pumped when I was still active duty, and I couldn’t either. As any pumping mother will tell you, it takes a lot of work to build up a supply when you have a pump instead of a baby at your breast. A pump doesn’t signal the same as a hungry baby. A pump can’t respond to a baby’s saliva and make antibodies specifically designed for the infant’s current state. A pump doesn’t bite either, but you know, trade-offs.

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Shifting our focus means a lot of change. It means changing how and where we do childcare. It means caring more about the next generation of humanity than an individual adult’s comfort level. It means upsetting the status quo in a big way. It means “causing trouble.”

But it’s so worth it.

Mamas out there, I beg you. Please let’s just support each other’s choices, even if we don’t agree. If every mom’s declaration is met with support and acceptance, we can accomplish amazing things together. Heck, you don’t have to be a mother. Let’s just support one another. Then we’ll know better and do better. For ourselves, each other, and our kids. Let’s heal the world.

Much love to you all,

Eve

We can breastfeed and work. Because we’re women.

I just found out about a politician in Canada named Amy England. She recently had a baby and is not eligible for maternity leave because she doesn’t pay into the fund. (In Canada, everyone pays a small amount into Employment Insurance, which covers parental leave. Novel concept, right?) As of now, there is no policy for councillors who give birth during their term.

Councillor England is determined to breastfeed (thank you!!) and is bringing her baby to work with her so she doesn’t miss a meeting. It kills me that people are apparently claiming she can’t have a baby and also serve the people. Really? Who better to take care of constituents than a young mother raising the next generation? A crotchety old man who thinks we should all be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?

I don’t think so either.

In Amy’s words:

I am a regional and city municipal councillor in the city of Oshawa in Ontario Canada. I am the first woman who has been elected and had a baby while being elected in my city and region. I have been breast feeding my 3 week old baby and must return to work on January 6th. If I miss more than 3 months of meetings in a row I will lose my seat. I will be bringing my baby with me for the purpose of breast feeding and have been viciously attacked for this decision when I announced my intention. Now I expect when I bring my baby, it will cause major debate and attention…I do not want to be pushed into bathrooms or backrooms and have to choose between my child’s human right for breast milk and my right to vote on behalf of my constituents.

There is absolutely no reason that Councillor England can’t be allowed to breastfeed her baby. Mothers have worked while breastfeeding throughout history, and it’s high time we are acknowledged and supported in modern day society. Look at Licia Ronzulli, an Italian MEP (Member of the European Parliament) who breastfed her daughter at work when she was six weeks old and still brings her daughter to work at age three.

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Seriously, how awesome is this?

When Councillor England’s story first came out, there were some awful comments. This article by Chris Bird highlights some of the doozies. I came to this part and thought YES, he says it perfectly:

So, go ahead and throw insults at Amy England and other women for trying to change the ‘traditional’ way of raising children and/or being a politician. Or better yet, you could praise them for having the balls to say that something needs to change. It’s not a boys club anymore, and it never will be again. Once you accept that, and try to work with people instead of against them, you’ll find that your life will become a lot easier.”

Please get the word out and show support for Councillor England and all breastfeeding mothers. You can find her at http://amyengland.ca.

Thank you!