Ohio Supreme Court Rules Against Breastfeeding Mother

What a setback for working mothers in Ohio: The State Supreme Court upheld a ruling that it was okay to fire a mother who took “unauthorized breaks” to express breastmilk for her 5-month-old baby.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

In a 5-1 ruling, justices said a suburban Cincinnati company was within its rights to fire an employee who snuck off to pump her breasts an hour before her scheduled break.

LaNisa Allen, then 35, was fired in August 2005 by the outerwear manufacturer Totes/Isotoner in West Chester after a supervisor caught her pumping milk during her scheduled work time.

Allen was storing the milk for her son, then 5 months old.

She sued, claiming that the state’s pregnancy-discrimination law applies to lactating mothers because lactation is a natural consequence of pregnancy.

A trial court and an appeals court ruled against Allen, and the Supreme Court affirmed those decisions.

The state’s highest court did not rule on whether the pregnancy law covers new mothers who are lactating. Instead, the court said Allen missed her chance to put that question to the test by taking breaks without permission instead of seeking an accommodation.

It is unbelievable that work protections for lactating moms is not the norm in most parts of this country. Too bad the issue has not been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For those of you who pumped at work, did you work out a deal with your employer? What would you have done in LaNisa Allen’s shoes?


Some press links.

So, after throwing my grenade, I’ll retreat to (somewhat) safer territory of posting links to various press articles.

First, I saw this picture in the MOO, and had to share:


This is Hanna Dahl, a Danish member of the European Parliament doing the ultimate working mom juggle.  Ms. Dahl, you rock.
Then, apparently, Judith Warner objects to the MOO in its entirety, not just the cow references.

Ban the Pump.

The comments section has just EXPLODED.  Whew!

And lastly, I’ve meaning to ask everyone’s opinion about ABC’s new show In the Motherhood.  I can’t even watch the commercials without wanting to throw something at the TV.  I’d rather watch Glenn Beck.  ::shudder::  Mind you, if they were to do an episode based on one of Mara’s Mother of All Trips posts, I would definitely watch, because it would at least be intelligently written.


The anthropological study continues.

So, I’ve been out at this conference for a week and a half.  This has given me ample opportunity to continue to collect data on the societies that form around lactation rooms in different settings.  I have many new fascinating observations.

(Heh, I sound so formal.  Heh.)

Thankfully, the site hosting the conference has a MOO.  (They don’t call it that, but not everyone can be as witty as the mommies at my office.)  I didn’t realize how annoying manual pumping would get after extended use.  Lord, its tedious.  Of course, I had to ask the men where it was, and laughingly, the one there the least amount of time was the only one who knew it existed.  He must have heard about it during orientation.  😉

First difference:  The MOO here has a combination lock on the door!  Bizarro.  Luckily, the first time I went there there were other mommies in the room who let me in.  They were very suspicious of me, though, because they didn’t understand how I knew where the room was without having been given the combo.  Once I explained that I was for a conference, one of the mommies was very nice and gave me the combo (against policy!) and her number if I needed any help.  This reinforces the conclusion that nursing moms are normally predisposed to help other mommies.  Then she explained the reason for the lock:  they had a problem with supervisors coming into the room looking for their employees!  Holy moly.  I’d go ballistic.

Second difference:  They have private stalls.  Big stalls.  So you go into the stall, close the curtain, and pump.  This had a very unexpected side effect.  Nobody talks in this MOO.  Its like a freakin’ church.  Moms come in and out and don’t say hello or anything.  I’ve had to fight repeatedly the urge to talk to someone walking in while I was pumping.  It just feels sound counterintuitive.  Obviously, at the MOO in my office, where we are baring all, conversation eventually starts flowing freely.  Whoa, Nelly, not here.  They have a notebook where they can leave notes for each other.  In the pursuit of scientific inquiry, I flipped through the book.  And just like on the Internet, depersonalized communication allows people to be nasty!  Some of the notes about people not cleaning up appropriately were harsh.  Of course, the anonymity of the stalls allows you to be messier than in my MOO where everyone can see that you left milk on the table, y’know?  There’s also a very unfriendly note up on the wall outlining the rules of the room: be sure to lock the door so no one steals my pump (this was circled and underlined several times), etc.  I must admit, I appreciated the one rule about not bringing coworkers in to chat with you.  Heh.  Ultimately, though, the lack of face to face (or, frankly, face to boob) interaction eliminates the sense of community I’ve found at my office.  

Third difference:  There is no microwave.  Apparently, they are not as freaked out about germs in Hawaii.  I can get behind this.  They also have a much bigger fridge, which is nice.  Not that I’m using it, but still, its nice.

So, I must conclude from the this foray into another MOO that I actually prefer the non-private option, despite my initial discomfort.  I really like the friendliness of my MOO, and meeting other mothers in my office.  I like it so much that I find myself reluctant to stop pumping at work right now, so I’ll probably continue when I go back next week.  I am very surprised by this conclusion.  I didn’t think I would be so bothered by the prospect of stopping.  Who knew?

I wonder if my boss would sign on to sending me around to more offices, just for the purpose of furthering my scientific study.  😀


Notes from a working mother.

I have a bunch of unconnected things I’ve been wanting to post about, but none of them were really big enough to warrant a diary of their own.  So, I’m serving up a casserole.

Hey, its Saint David’s Day!  Happy “national” day to everyone Welsh!  We have snow on the ground, so no daffodils today.  I feel like I should go buy one at the store…

First up, controversy.  My office has an internal computer network that is for work purposes.  In an effort to boost collaboration across offices, they have blogs.  Yes, blogs.  Anyone can start a blog, and there is no approving authority.  However, the purpose of a blog is supposed to be work-related, of course.  A woman, an active blogger who already had a work related blog, started a blog called “Working Mommies.”  The title annoyed me, because it perpetuates that damn false notion that women have to shoulder the working parent burden alone, but whatever.  Then, the potty training post arrived.  And the entire blog was deleted by TPTB.  Howls of protest from other bloggers about censorship and other post unrelated to work that were not deleted.  Personally, I thought the blog was out of place.  As a commenter pointed out, there are a trillion places on the real Internet where you can get advice on potty training.  The blog annoyed me because I think I was annoyed that mommy concerns somehow had crossed a line into my office.  I’ll chat with other parent coworkers in the office, but the thought of mommy blogging was off, in the workplace.  Since you are the foremost mommy bloggers I know, I ask you: should the blog have been deleted?

Secondly, a bittersweet milestone.  Monday will probably be the last day I use the pumping room.  The business trip looms, and while I”m gone, pumping will be hard.  So, when I get back, I’ll probably drop to breastfeeding only in the morning and night, and just use formula during the day.  I didn’t have enough milk stockpiled to get DS through the ten days anyway, so at some point he will start only formula.  I have made some friends in the MOO room, some women who live by me.  At the same time, on busy days at the office, having to run up to the MOO is just an annoyance.  It feels weird, though, to be done with that.  I’m gloomy about the trip in general; DS turns 6 months old while I’m gone and I just know he will finally roll back to tummy and start crawling while I’m away.  :(  I feel like I already miss so much of his life because he doesn’t nap at daycare and comes home wiped out.  The teachers and other moms tell me he’s such a different baby at school; it makes me sad.

5 years ago, I never would have believed I would be this sad about a business trip to Hawaii.  Sheesh.

Finally, anger.  I was listening to Marketplace on NPR during the drive home on Friday.  I should really stop doing this, in this climate, because I get really worried.  I heard this depressing statistic: if you graduated in the 1990s and started saving for retirement, you are basically back to square one.  You have no more money for retirement than if you’d saved it under your mattress.  I am furious.  I did everything I was supposed to do: saved from the first day I started my first job, made it a priority.  And because some fat cats on Wall Street got too damn greedy, I’ve lost it all.  11 years of investments, gone.  Now what?  I’m not sure I can trust 401(k)s for retirement anymore, y’know?  Luckily, I’m at least 30 years away from retirement.  But I’m still really pissed!

(Holy crap, DS hit the keyboard and somehow deleted this entire post!!  Thank god the way-back button works here! (control-Z))


Baby-Friendly America?  Close the Milk Gap

By Nanette Fondas

We’ve heard of the trade gap, wage gap, and gender gap.  Now comes the milk gap.”  

It is the gap between the time a mother is able to feed her newborn baby breast milk and the twelve months that pediatricians recommend.  Why twelve months?  Because the health benefits of breastfeeding abound:  babies have reduced chances of suffering from diabetes, leukemia, meningitis, obesity and a host of other illnesses.  Yet 84 percent of mothers stop breastfeeding before their babies reach age one, in large part, because they have no choice:  they need to return to paycheck jobs, many of which are incompatible with breastfeeding.

To become a more family-friendly country, we need to become more baby-friendly and help mothers close the milk gap.

Most babies have a milk deficit:  they breastfeed for less than one year.  Fortunate moms minimize the deficit by crafting extended paid leaves from work by taking what paid time off they have accrued all at once (for example, maternity leave plus sick days plus vacation days).  Other mothers utilize on-site day care, which allows them to break from work to breastfeed.  Still others bring their infants to work.   Flexible schedules sometimes permit moms to work at home or part-time — thereby enabling them to nurse their babies while resuming wage work responsibilities. And some moms resort to breast pumps to allow others to feed their babies’ the precious mother’s milk.

Yet no matter how hard mothers try to close the milk gap, they are left in nearly an impossible situation, trying to meet the twelve-month medical guideline by individually cobbling together a strategy that works perhaps for awhile, staving off guilt about how much milk and breast — and what they together and separately offer — their babies and they themselves need.

In some lucky families, babies have a milk surplus.  This occurs when mom’s number of years spent breastfeeding, divided by the number of kids nursed, exceeds the number one.  I have four children.  I nursed the eldest for three years, a set of twins for two years, and the last-but-not-least baby for one year.  That’s eight breastfeeding years divided by four kids, for an average of two years per child:  a one-year per child milk surplus.  How did I do it?  A combination of the strategies:  front-loading work as a professor to create an extended paid leave, becoming a stay-at-home mom for awhile, and working from home on a results-only, virtual team.  

As an economist, my gut tells me that the milk gap should be closed by somehow offsetting milk deficits with milk surpluses.  But that’s not practical (though mothers who have donated breast milk to ICU units for premature babies will see the possibility).  Instead, what’s needed is for people who care about children and families to support public policies and workplace practices that help close the milk gap:  paid family leave, flexible work arrangements (including time and space for pumping), convenient, quality child care, and on-ramps back into good jobs and careers for stay-at-home moms.  

That sounds like progress toward a baby-friendly country to me.


The Final Countdown.

Wow.  This is it.  My last week of maternity leave.  eeeek!

My brain is scattering in a million different directions.  I still have a huge list of things I want to get done, but instead of crossing things off I’m adding things.  It doesn’t help my state of mind that Thanksgiving is Thursday (really?  Where the heck did time go?) and I feel like I really only have a few days to get things done.

For example:

-I have to go through my closet and figure out which work clothes I still fit into and how much shopping I have to do.  (Shopping.  Add that to the list.  I wonder if I have the stamina for Black Friday.)

-I want to paint all the doors in my house.  That’s been on the list since bed rest.  Hasn’t been done yet.

-I want to finish the two books I wanted to read for work.  HAH!

These are just a few things.  There are mundane things, like laundry and getting pictures organized to take in for my desk.  I’m tired just thinking about it.

Then, of course, I have a ton of decisions to make about DS.  We already made the big one.  He will be going to a different daycare than my DD.  He got a slot at the daycare heavily subsidized by my employer, close to my building.  I really agonized about this.  I don’t like splitting up the kids.  I don’t like having to do both pick up and drop off.  Its not exactly convenient for one parent to deal with both if one of us is sick or on travel.  So why the hell are we doing this?

Its going to save us $8400 a year on childcare.

Yeah, $8400.  You read that right.  You can’t exactly walk away from that.  We won’t move DD because she’s thriving at the other center, loves her teachers, has many friends.  Thus, they’ll be split.  Ugh.

I’m stressing about all the things I can’t remember from DD’s baby days at day care.  How many bottles do I send?  How many ounces in each bottle?  The rule of thumb for formula is a half ounce for each pound, which means 6.5 ounces, but I swear to god, he doesn’t eat that much yet.  I honestly don’t know how much he does eat, but whenever I feed him for longer than the 15 minutes on one side, he spits up an amazing amount of stuff.  So I don’t think he can hold down that much yet!  (Of course, I am a cow, so maybe he can.  See below.)  I guess I send the 6.5 ounces and throw away what he doesn’t eat.  Which means the little bottles I bought are basically useless.  Great.  Diapers, spare clothes, diaper cream, god the list is endless and I know I will forget something.  We have orientation at the center tomorrow morning, and I’m hoping that I get a better handle on things then.

The big decision still to be made is whether or not I pump at work.  With DD, my evil employer didn’t provide a facility for pumping and thus I didn’t even think twice about it.  I wasn’t going to sit in the bathroom!  But, my current, wonderful employer has a marvelous set up with private rooms, fridges and a policy of letting employees take the breaks needed to pump.  MUCH more mommy friendly.  So, its much more doable.  But, man, I hate pumping.  I feel like a cow.  OTOH, I make enough milk to successfully feed twins, possibly triplets.  (Which, oddly enough, also makes me feel like a cow.)  The pediatrician is very impressed with me.  I feel like I shouldn’t let that go to waste, y’know?  Right now, I’m toying with the idea of pumping twice a day through Christmas, so I can continue to eat whatever I want without gaining weight.  ;->.  Then I can see how I feel about it.  The reality is, I am a very lazy person, and leaving my desk twice a day to go to the pumping room is going to piss me off.  I know this.  I just hope I can overcome it.

My anxiety about all this is manifesting in strange ways.  I’m positive there is something catastrophically wrong with either me or DS.  Every pain in my body makes me think I have cancer, that I need to get over to the doctor.  Ridiculous!  I know its ridiculous, and yet I think these things.  Clearly, I have issues with cancer.  I can’t possibly schedule doctor appointments for this week, so I simply. must. chill.  I’m going to become a raving lunatic, that type of patient that doctors roll their eyes over.  Aren’t I absurd?

I’ve also become a much more worried mother, but I do feel like I have a sound basis.  DS will be getting a hearing test on January 13th.  He passed his infant screening, but I am 100% positive that he doesn’t respond to voices or to rattles or keys.  I’ve been worrying about/watching this for a month, and finally took him to the doctor.  He’s getting a BAER test, and much to my dismay, they apparently sedate babies for this test sometimes.  After our conversation here I’m not too thrilled about this, and I don’t know if I’ll let them do that.  I had hoped to get him in for the test this week (and can now cross this off the list…) but they are booked solid two months out!  Dear lord.  He has to go the neuro-diagnostic lab at the local hospital, and let me tell you, it does not feel good to hear office name.  Its a scary sounding place!

So, on top of getting my house ready for the family, I am dealing with all this.  I both want this week OVER ALREADY! and for it to never end.  GAH!


Breastfeeding Harvard Mom Wins Case

Please note: Oops, my bad! Currier apparently is taking the exam over two days AND getting additional break time. Seems like a lot to me. Thanks for clarifying, Erika! -Elisa

Sophie Currier, the Harvard student who requested additional time during the nine-hour medical licensing exam to pump milk for her four-month-old daughter, just won an appeals court decision. She will be allowed an additional 60 minutes of break time to take the test.

I know we debated whether the 45 minutes was sufficient — it seemed like it was — but Currier’s demands made sense in this Associated Press article:

But (Judge) Katzmann said that amount of break time was “insufficient” for Currier to nurse her baby, properly express breast milk, eat, drink and use the restroom over the course of the nine-hour exam.

Without extra break time, Currier would have to choose between pumping breast milk and ignoring her bodily functions or foregoing pumping and causing herself significant pain, the judge said.

“Under either avenue, (Currier) is placed at significant disadvantage in comparison to her peers,” Katzmann wrote in his 26-page ruling.

Forty-five minutes for a 9-hour exam doesn’t seem like much when you take into consideration eating and using the bathroom. I know I am starving all the time when I am nursing. And since I just delivered a baby, I always have to use the bathroom, too.

I think this is a good precedent to set. Hopefully, it trickles down to other industries.