Pump it

Help New York women earn the right to express breast milk at work.

By Catherine Price

Published June 19, 2007 7:34PM (EDT)

We just got a tip from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York's Sex and Law Committee about a bill we think is worth supporting. So if you live in New York state (or know someone who does) and feel like taking a moment to help women get the time and space they need to express (i.e. pump) breast milk at work, read on.

The basic deal: It's well established that it's good for your kid to breast-feed for at least the first year of life. However, most women have to go back to work before that year is up, and therefore need to pump milk while they're on the job. This bill -- which is at the critical stage of possibly getting out of committee for a legislative vote -- would follow the precedent set by 12 other states in guaranteeing that employers cannot fire, demote or otherwise penalize women who take time during the workday to pump breast milk. It would also require that employers provide a private space and refrigeration for employees who are pumping.

If this sounds like a good idea, you can e-mail or fax a note to these three places (Sen. Bruno is apparently the most important):

Dean G. Skelos, Deputy Majority Leader for Legislative Operations, fax: (518) 426-6950, skelos@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. Thomas Libous, fax: (518) 455-2065, senator@senatorlibous.com

Sen. Joseph Bruno, attention Ed Bartholomew, fax: (518) 455-3191, bruno@senate.state.ny.us

While you're at it, "bcc" your messages to Liz Watson (lizschoff@hotmail.com), who's keeping track of correspondence.

Here's a sample letter, sent to us by a source in the Queens, N.Y., district attorney's office:

"Dear Senator(s):

"Breastfeeding provides the very best nutrition for babies. That's why the federal government's Healthy Families 2010 initiative and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that infants be breastfed in the first year of life. But most women are back at work during that first year -- earning paychecks to feed, clothe, and house their families. That's why you should pass the "Expressing At Work" bill. This bill will make sure that working moms with infants have time and space to express breast milk at work. It will have returns many times over for employers in the form of fewer missed work days by parents, as breastfed babies are sick far less often. It will also have returns for New York state, in the form of healthier children. This bill is the most important for women working in professions in which they do not have control over their time at work, or privacy. This bill would give them both of those things for the 15 minutes or so they need during a 3-4 hour period to express breast milk. In short, the bill would give them the ability to make food for their children. "I care about this bill because: --"

(Then you, uh, tell them why you care.)

Who said you didn't do anything productive today?

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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