Grab your breast pumps and rise up!

New legislation gives employers incentives to offer moms a place to express milk on the job.


Carol Lloyd
August 31, 2007 3:10AM (UTC)

News from the breast-feeding battleground of America suggests that lactivists won't be thwarted by nursing naysayers. MomsRising.org alerted us to the Breastfeeding Promotion Act sponsored by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to protect breast-feeding mothers by criminally prosecuting employers who fail to allow women to pump their liquid gold during work hours.

In my milk-sopped dreams!

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Actually, the act is a little milder than it would have been had I been the author. It uses a carrot rather than a stick to regulate breast-feeding discrimination by doling out tax credits to employers who offer women a place to breast-feed their babies and/or breast pumps and lactation services. Is there really a need for legislation at all? After all, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report (covered by Broadsheet), more mothers are breast-feeding now than at any time since the '50s, when the government began keeping track. And now that there are read 'n' pump books like "Milk Memos," how much support does a lactating mother need? As many stories posted on the MomsRising Web site suggest, there are plenty of employers trying to accommodate breast-feeding as best they can.

On the other hand, the CDC also observes that many women are giving up breast-feeding long before the recommended sixth months is over. And given the constant (if thin) stream of stories about women denied their right to breast-feed or pump, it's obvious that ringing medical endorsements about breast-feeding are not enough to persuade many employers and other organizations to jump on the breast-feeding bandwagon. In one recent tale, covered by the Boston Globe, a woman taking her nine-hour medical boards was denied extra breaks for breast-feeding. MomsRising.org has more bodily-function-meets-workplace horror stories: mothers enduring everything from dirty bathroom stalls to nasty comments from co-workers and -- on one occasion -- even being written up for daring to utter the word breast at work.

If one thing seems universal, it's that a little support from employers goes a long way toward lubricating the wheels of loyalty. In posts on Moms Rising, employers that supported their nursing employees engendered a gushing sense of gratitude. (Talk about free advertising!) So even if a $10,000 annual tax credit is a necessary catalyst, once the good feelings start flowing, some employers may embrace an unlikely motto: Breast is best, even if it means remodeling the server room.

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Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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