Federal Provision: Breastfeeding Protected in the Federal Workplace

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  What does the law providing protection for women who choose to breastfeed in federal buildings really mean?

 The federal government has come a long way in accommodating mothers-to-be throughout pregnancy and post birth or so it seems.  One thing boggles me though – how progressive is the federal government on breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace?    I for one think that if the federal government provides for women to breastfeed or express milk while lawfully in federal  buildings then there should be some type of plan in place to support women who choose to breastfeed.  This may seem like a totally random topic but I currently work in an office that has six identified pregnancies in various stages – second trimester to newborn.   Observing a pregnant women is hardly uncommon in our building but the intricacies that surround supporting a new mother in the workplace are a mystery to me and I am sure to many others.  Having four pregnant women in an office of 30 people it seems like I see a pregnant belly or another all day long. A few of them have been preparing for their babies for what seems like forever and I am not exaggerating!  They are constantly talking about pregnancy, birth, maternity leave and just everything baby.  I have overheard so many conversations about controversial maternal research and healthy baby tips that were discussed all while waiting at the latest doctor’s appointment that I feel like I am now an expert.  I have also been privy to the trials and tribulations of finally having to trade in the normal work clothes for overflowing blouses and pants with the elastic  bands.  And of course, day care is a definite hot topic as there are a few prime day care centers within blocks of our building but just to get on the waiting lists expectant couples have to go through an application process, open houses and the at will interviews. 

 

Hands down though breastfeeding is what peaks my interest the most.  To hear these mothers talk about pricing pumps and training classes and consultants and latching on you have to be proud of their decision but then you come back to – what will you do when you get back to work?    As I write this two of the mothers are out on maternity leave, one has been breastfeeding for about five weeks now and the other gave birth on Friday and her best-friend says she  too has embraced breastfeeding (although with a few choice expletives).  When these ladies return they intend to continue breastfeeding but how will they accomplish this?  We do not have a program of any kind in place to support breastfeeding mothers and I haven’t heard much in the realm of starting one.  I am sure we will be able to find them places to lock themselves away and express milk when they need to but why don’t we have an area that can be designated as such?  Hell, we don’t even have a real employee health suite on site.  When free flu shots were announced for the employees everyone had to trek down the block to another agency’s health office.  Sad I know, but true.

 

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The federal government has hailed breast milk  as the preferred and most complete source of nutrition for babies but I guess only while their mothers are able to stay at home with them.  Based on my workplace experience the federal government is anti-breastfeeding.  I am not sure if that is pc but hey it’s my opinion.  Yes – protection is provided for mothers who choose to breastfeed or express milk while lawfully on federal property, yes – we have refrigerators to store the milk, yes – we are given break time throughout the day to take care of personal responsibilities, yes – pregnancy is accepted in the workplace, yes it is okay to talk about pregnancy and breastfeeding in mixed company; but mothers still have no where to breastfeed or express milk.  The break room and restrooms are not acceptable locations for mothers who want to breastfeed and we won’t even discuss the jokes about pumping your breast milk while sitting at your computer station.  Where is the accommodation then for mothers who choose to breastfeed ?  And how then can they be expected to exclusively breastfeed if they can’t express milk?  We are back to where we started, women have to choose to stay at home and breastfeed or come to work while their baby is formula fed…we sure have come a long way.  

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