Looks like it's time to relaunch that "When Nurture Calls" campaign from 2014. Remember that photo series? It showed women breast-feeding their tiny and vulnerable babies in gross public toilet stalls, because that's exactly what moms are forced to do when no other options are provided. And now that the U.S. House of Representatives has made moves towards dismantling the Affordable Care Act, uncomfortably — and unhealthily — lurking in toilet stalls may once again be the fate of working moms across America.
Under the Affordable Care Act (which, yes, is the same thing as Obamacare), women were guaranteed the time and space to pump breast milk at their place of employment. And that designated space was required to be clean, private, easily accessible, and most importantly, not a bathroom. This is a necessary and obvious protection, especially given the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies consume only breast milk for the first six months of their lives. And I don't know about you, but my only friend who got paid maternity leave for six months lives in Sweden.
In fact, Fortune points out how the need for a breast-feeding provision like the ACA's is uniquely, and terribly, American: "Since the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without paid maternity leave...59% of first-time mothers return to paid work in the first three months postpartum," the magazine reports. That limited leave combined with the ACP's advice regarding exclusive breast-feeding is the perfect storm of conflicting factors that leaves many moms no choice but to pump at work.
Of course, with a president-elect who called a lawyer "disgusting" when she requested a pumping break, are we really surprised that a federal provision to protect pumping moms may be on the proverbial chopping block?
When I returned to work after giving birth last year, I had a million worries. But where on earth can I sit down for 20 minutes and lock the door and also plug in this loud and unwieldy breast pump? was not one of them. My employer provided me with that space. And that's the least an employer can do.
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