Pumping isn’t good enough; lactivists demand the right to breastfeed during work

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In their solipsism and self-righteousness, lactivists are now threatening workplace equality.

That’s likely to be the ultimate effect of a poorly conceived, basically  frivolous complaint being brought by a New Hampshire mother in the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the astoundingly credulous reporter at The Boston Globe:

The 42-year-old New Hampshire woman, who was terminated from her job last August for not returning to work after her maternity leave, says she stayed home because her employers would not agree to what she calls a reasonable request to accommodate her desire to breast-feed her child during the workday.

Imagine that. She was fired simply because she refused to come to work.

I know you’ll be shocked to find that the mother feels terribly sorry for herself.

“I felt like a volcano was erupting and heading straight for me and I was locked in,” she said of the drawn-out communications she had with her employer over her breast-feeding rights. Frederick had worked as a child support officer with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services in Conway. “If I went back to work and did what I needed to do for my health and [my son]’s health, I would have been insubordinating.”

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing. Why doesn’t she pump breastmilk for her son? Alas, her special snowflake won’t take a bottle.

The Affordable Care Act and state laws require most employers to accommodate women who wish to breast-feed by allowing them to pump milk during the workday to later bottle-feed their children. But Frederick’s son Devon, like many babies, would not take a bottle at first; to breast-feed him, she would have to physically be with him.

That means she fell into a legal black hole in terms of protection: Employers aren’t required to let their employees breast-feed children during work hours — they just have to make it possible for mothers to pump their milk.

She hasn’t been to work for the past year? How old is this baby anyway? Actually, he’s not a baby. He’s a 14 month old toddler.

Legal eagle Jake Marcus (a woman, and Gina Crossly-Corcoran’s former lawyer in our ongoing court case) offered this bit of brilliance:

Jake Marcus, a Philadelphia lawyer and national breast-feeding advocate, calls that legal distinction between pumping and feeding “absurd.”

“Just the specter of having children in the workplace scares people,” she said.

No, Jake, that doesn’t scare people. It’s interferes with the purpose of the workplace … work.

Dr. Melissa Bartick weighs in. You may remember Dr. Bartick as the researcher who published thoroughly fanciful and fabricated claims about breastfeeding saving hundreds of lives and billions of dollars … as long as we ASSUME (!!) a causal relationship between breastfeeding and health benefits.

Dr. Bartick, vying for the role of lactivist bully-in-chief, has this to say:

“There are enormous risks from not breast-feeding,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, chair of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition. Stopping breast-feeding earlier puts children at risk for many chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and even leukemia, she said.

That, of course, is a bald faced lie, but when you are bullying, the truth apparently doesn’t matter very much.

But let’s leave aside the extraordinary factual problems with this case, including the absurd claims about the benefits of breastfeeding. This case strikes at the heart of workplace equality for women because it is predicated on a radical demand: employers ought to be forced to accommodate whatever a mother deems “best” for her child.

Women have spent decades convincing employers that they can be equal to men in all parameters of work. Now this woman is claiming that children have a need for their mothers that trumps the employer’s needs. Why stop at breastfeeding?

Why wouldn’t women argue that children have a need for their mother’s physical presence for 3 years and that they should be allowed to have 3 year maternity leaves? Why couldn’t women argue that children have a need for mothers to be home at night and therefore, women should not be asked to travel for business? What if the baby has terrible stranger anxiety? Does that mean that the baby should be allowed to come to work with the mother?

Kate Frederick may believe that her baby’s needs come before her employer’s needs. If so, she can act accordingly by putting her baby’s needs ahead of her employer’s needs and resign her job. But Kate seems to think that HER EMPLOYER should put Devon’s needs ahead of his own needs and that’s where she crossed the line.

Are women equal in the workplace, capable of performing at the same level as men? Or does being a mother mean that women can longer be a professional at work, but a mother first?

My generation of women, and the generation that came before me, struggled mightily to convince professional schools, employers and colleagues that women are every bit as capable and every bit as responsible as male employees. We managed to do so AND successfully mother our children.

Now a new generation of women is declaring that, no, women cannot be expected to be every bit as capable and professional as men. Once they have a baby, the baby trumps all and they must be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, by saying the magic words, “it’s good for my baby.”

Lactivists need to grow up and own their own choices. Women can continue a successful breastfeeding relationship by pumping during working hours while still being stellar employees. If Kate Frederick and other lactivists think that’s not good enough for their special snowflakes, they can quit their jobs, do without the income, and accept the fact that their babies are not their employers’ responsibility.

  • Kadabra Frederick

    Hello,

    My name is KateDAbra Frederick.

    Thank you Amy Tuteur, MD for posting my story and to all those who commented. I’m working on a press release to further explain key points. In the meantime, I recently did an interview on NH Public Radio with Brady Carlson on All Things Considered.

    http://nhpr.org/post/dispute-raises-questions-about-how-employers-accommodate-breastfeeding-moms

    I have also set up a fundraiser – https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/fhv2/breastfeeding-discrimination-support-fund/updates/38246

    Of interest to you may be legal precedent posted on the EEOC website: “Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination” http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/5-31-13a.cfm

    To clarify: Amy Tuteur, MD has not communicated with me directly and was simply going off of the Boston Globe Cover Story.

    Again, Thank you.

    • Captain Obvious

      It’s a job description. If you cannot fulfill it…

  • Miau

    I simply cannot agree wih the opinion expressed in the post because I live in an European country and I benefit from enhanced mother and baby social protection. Since the system works with no overload on tax payers I can only be happy. For instance we are allowed to stay at home up to 2 years after birth, with paid leave (of course the longer the period you stay at home, the lower the income you receive). Also, when retruning to work, your employer has to offer you the possibility to breastfeed or reduce your working schedule with 2 hours. This measure is taken so that you are stimulated to return to work earlier. Most of the working women do decide to retun early, out of need to reconnect with their social and professional lifes. There are other European countries (like the Netherlands or the UK for instance) where women have the possibility to opt for flexible working schedule so that they can take better care of their kids. And believe me, people there afford to leave comfortable lives, with 2 vacations per year without having to work 50 hours a week. Of course things were not always the same. During the communist regime, in my country mothers were allowed only 3 months home with the baby. Brestfeeding was almost impossible and you could hardly find any decent formula. Having lived in both regimes and seeing their effects (first as a child and then as a mother) I can only opt for enhanced work protection for mother and baby. As a feminist I can be empathic with the resentment of a woman who comes from a generation that fought for equal opportunities between men and women. But as a psychologist I have come to understand during the years, that in spite of the / my feminist claims, men and women are not equal, but simply different. They are different but complete each other and we should make efforts to obtain this armonisation in society without implementing unnecessary socialist rules. Since we managed to prove to society that we are as capable as men from a professional perspective, I think it’s time to take things to the next level and discuss the right to choose between continuing to work and raising our children for at least one year without the fear of having no health coverage. It’s a pitty that USA does not offer working women this option. As for breastfeeding, it is in 98% of the cases the better choice. No formula can compete with breast milk.

    • Kadabra Frederick

      Miau – Thank you for your comment. I’ll be posting updates on my FB page. Kadabra Fredreick

  • Milena

    One unfortunate side-effect of issues like this is how it makes some employers reluctant to consider hiring female candidates. Not out of an innate dislike or prejudice against women, but rather more with the goal of avoiding such hassles by the simple expedient of “not going there.”

    • Kadabra Frederick

      Milena – Thank you for your comment. I’ll be posting updates on my FB page.

  • Marguerita

    My workplace has been great about the baby – paid maternity leave (I took six weeks and they expressed concern that this is too little), flexible hours, pumping room, etc. My boss has been very supportive. What surprised me was that all my other coworkers began ostracizing me when I got back from maternity leave. I was surprised since these are people that used to invite me for beers after work and now I’m air. I sent them a photo of the baby when I was on maternity leave and no one replied. They don’t talk to me, not even things that I actually need to do my job.

    At first I thought I did something wrong – I really was very distracted at first with the new baby. It’s clearly not that though, as I’ve been getting raises and clients love my work. If I’m doing something wrong at work no one is bothering to tell me what it is.

    This has been a very hurtful experience, especially as I am a very sensitive person who is predisposed to depression.

    • Kadabra Frederick

      Marguerita – Thank you for your comment. I’ll be posting updates on my FB page.

  • Felicitasz

    I do not know what to think of the actual case, I can not see it out of context when it comes to the United States and its ridicolous policies about maternity leaves. All I know is that I called off my very first opera role because I could not face the idea of leaving my then-2-month-old for all those evening rehearsals when he was totally dependent on me and the food my body provided. In my country, mothers DO have 3 years of maternity leave and the do stay at home for an average of two years. The phenomenon has several reasons behind it but it is still the fact that it is possible to stay at home for 3 years in Hungary and get allowance from the state. We Hungarian women do not fight for “equality” in terms of full time work: we fight for do-at-home job options, partial work days, flexible hours, workplace time based on accomplishment (the task finished) and not schedule, available day-care, preferably close to or actually within the campus/building of work place.
    I was breastfeeding my 12-month-old (even my 18-month-old, come to that), of course not exlusively but it was GOOD for both of us, and it would have been downright terrible having to return to work with an 8-month-old (a 12-weeks old????!!!) in day care. I am horrified to see this practice in the United States and I can see that whoever has enough money to do so stays at home longer or makes sure that she has flexibly scheduled part-time work. It is always down to those less privileged who do not have a choice and either go back to hard work leaving their crying babies in day care or live on welfare and without health insurance (NO CHILD WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE IN HUNGARY) and other terrible stuff.
    What I am saying is that I just can not see this specific issue in the post as a single topic to talk about.
    Of course it is true that pumping is not enough. It would not have been for me, graduate degree white privileged woman with insurance. Lucky me. I could give my baby what he clearly needed until he weaned himself and my heart breaks for everyone who calls the US their home country and has no way out of poverty and raises future tax payers without any sensible / tangible state help whatsoever. Wanna breastfeed? Do without income.
    Wow. Just – wow.

    • Jessica

      Well, as someone who has a toddler and returned to work when he was eight weeks old, I guess I’ll say…it really wasn’t that bad. Now granted, my mother watches my son in our home each day, so perhaps I’d feel differently if I had to drop him off at daycare each day. I had paid maternity leave – but not enough to take off the full 12 weeks offered to me, let alone the three months I thought would have been ideal. By the end of my eight weeks, I was kind of ready to go back. I cannot imagine the brain drain that would have happened had I taken an entire year off work and how that might have permanently altered the trajectory of my career, including my lifetime earnings.

      • KarenJJ

        I did go a bit insane during my 12 months off on maternity leave. Second time around I was kept pretty busy, had some great friends and also started working from home around the 10 month mark. But I’m glad I had those options available to me. I’m very much ‘each to their own’ so working shortly after birth is a great option to have, but so is having longer leave for those that want it.

    • GuestB

      May I ask what is so terrible about having a 12 week old in daycare? And why you are horrified by this?

      • Meerkat

        I am horrified by this, too, maybe because I am also a foreigner. I realize that it’s not life or death, but I would never want my child to go to daycare from such a young age. First of all, I would not want him to be exposed to so many other children and, potentially, diseases, before all his vaccinations. Secondly, what level of attention are these babies getting? Thirdly, I am paranoid. There, I said it. I would simply be scared of leaving my helpless baby with strangers. I know that some day care centers are great and many parents have no other choice. I feel for those parents. The babies don’t get the same amount of attention and care as at home. It’s simple logistics. My friends have their 6 month old in daycare, and she does not take naps there, all day long. That can’t be good for her health and development, right? But she can’t take naps because there is no quiet and dark room where she can fall asleep.
        I see a lot of nannies in my area. They are professional and experienced, but I see this time and time again- they completely ignore their little charges. They don’t even make eye contact. They do what is necessary, but not more. This is contrast with mommies who constantly talk, coo, and cuddle their babies. I don’t even want to think of the contrast with daycare, where they have many babies and fewer caretakers.
        I know I probably sound like a sanctimommy, and I don’t want to offend anyone or make them feel bad about their choices. I think American lower and middle class women are put in an impossible position and penalized for having children, no matter what choices they make. Those of us who stay home with the kids face diminishing career prospects and fewer lifetime earnings. Those of us who work have to entrust our children to the care of others and face constant guilt and (possibly) substandard level of care. I guess population growth crisis is not something America had to face, so the lawmakers see no need to make the lives of parents any easier.

        • GuestB

          Now I can speak only for myself, but for me, seeing someone decapitated right before my eyes – that would be horrifying. An infant in daycare? Not so much.

          • Meerkat

            Perhaps ” horrified” is a bit too strong of a word, but I was using it as a thread to answer your question and agree with Felicitasz’s comment, since both of you used it. As I said before, I am sure majority of the kids in daycare are ok, and many daycare centers are wonderful. What horrifies (or “saddens”, or “outrages,” if you wish) us both is not the daycare as such- it’s the lack of paid maternity leave in US.

          • GuestB

            Now that last sentence I can agree with 100%.

          • Clarissa Darling My PhoneHateD

            “What horrifies (or “saddens” or “outrages” if you wish) us both is not the daycare as such – it’s the lack of paid maternity leave in the US.” If that’s all you meant perhaps you could have left it at that and dispensed with your over dramatic and judgemental description of child care (which does make it sound pretty horrific). I think you’re forgetting that in addition to women to women who strictly must to go back to work there are women who willingly “subject” their children daycare. Yes, I think the US should have paid maternity leave (although I think 3 years worth is excessive). Your statement goes way beyond making that point by characterizing daycare as some kind of abuse. Germs, strangers who do the minimum, no eye contact, impeded development, what mom in their right mind would actually choose that? I’ll never understand why people feel the need to make very offensive statements to get their point across and at the same time say “I don’t mean to offend anyone”. If you care about not offending anyone than don’t say what you know will sound offensive. If you care about making your point then make your point and don’t offer any disingenuous apologies for the offense.

          • Felicitasz

            ” don’t say what you know will sound offensive”

            What if the pre-offered apology was actually genuine, and was offered because the person really and truly and actually DOES NOT KNOW what might sound offensive (in general, or even to one particular discussion partner one has never met)?
            Not everyone plays games.
            (Non-native speakers, in writing, next to never play any games – based on my approach, we are happy and grateful when corrected about nuances or more complex expressions.)

          • Clarissa Again

            Because she said “I know I probably sound like a sanctimommy” and “I don’t want to offend anyone” Ergo, I think she understood her statements had the power to offend.  One good thing about the US is the freedom that everyone has (and should have) to state their opinion without regards to who it is offending.  However, in the case that those statements do end up offending someone, a preemptive apology is not a get out of jail free card.  You don’t have the right to expect that no one will express their hurt/offense/indignation because you issued the “I don’t mean to offend you, but….”disclaimer.  At the end of the day neither you nor she have to apologize for your extremely negative opinions of daycare to me or anyone else who might be offended by it.  If that’s truly how you feel then, so be it, I’ll get over my offense. However, I also have the right to give my own opinion in reply which is:  As an expectant working mom, I found her (and your) tirade of personal opinions on substandard situation of children in daycare to be quite in inaccurate and offensive as well as quite irrelevant  to the topic of paid maternity leave.  After all, maternity leave has to end sometime and if conditions in daycare are as bad as you describe then it would be no more acceptable for a mother to leave her older infant or toddler in such a place in order to pursue a career.  I fail to see, even with a possible language barrier,
            how anyone could say such disturbing things about strangers, child development, germs and the like and expect that no woman with her child in daycare, whether by choice or circumstance would be left feeling bad about it.

          • Clarissa Again

            I also want to add that I do have experience with non-native English speakers and so I question whether this would be the issue.   As far as I can tell it’s not just a nuance problem.  She’s not only used the word “horrifying” when what she might have meant is upsetting.  She went on and gave a full and detailed account of the kinds of the things she assumes will happen in to children in daycare—inattentive nannies, lack of affection, poor development etc…  Now maybe she misunderstands what daycare is like in the US.  If that is the case, then I humbly suggest she look into it more before issuing such a harsh opinion.   There are also plenty of sanctimommies who understand exactly what daycare in the US entails and will lay into working moms with all of the criticism that Meerkat presented and worse.  I try and be the type of person who can ignore such things but, I’m human so it does get to me on occasion.  I guess I’ll put it down to the pregnancy hormones making me over sensitive or something since, I hate to admit it but, I actually cried after reading that comment.

          • Meerkat

            Clarissa Again, my little rant was an answer to GuestB who was asking what was so horrifying about children in daycare. What I wrote was simply my personal emotional reaction, not polemic against working mothers. That’s why I was speaking about it in first person. I mentioned that I was a foreigner for one simple reason- many people who lived in other countries are shocked by the lack of laws protecting mothers and families.
            I don’t think I am a pretty anxious person, a worrier, and the thought of leaving my 3 months old in the care of others scared or horrified me when he was that age. I am fortunate that I was in the position to stay home with him, and it makes me really sad to hear many of my friends tell me how heartbreaking it is to return to work because they have no other choice. One of my friends is the breadwinner in the family and she confided in me that she started to resent her husband because he could spend so much time with the baby. I actually cried when she told me this. Yes, some women choose to go to work shortly after the baby is born, but vast majority of my friends would have loved to stay home with the baby longer.
            I am sorry my post offended you, but most of my comments were my personal observations. I watch nannies in the park every single day, and yup- no eye contact. I didn’t say it affected the babies’ development, I just don’t know if that is the case. Daycares? I don’t know the ratio of babies to caretakers, but it isnt 1:1, so there must be times when those babies are left to their own devices. I agree with Felicitasz – I wouldn’t want to leave my infant with either one. Unless, of course, I had no choice. That was the point she and I are trying to make- some of us are fortunate enough to have these choices, but most of us aren’t. Many mothers are left scrambling.
            My rant is not a criticism of working mother’s choices (or, rather, lack thereof). It’s the criticism of the system and the culture that forces pregnant woman to forego her sick days so she can use them to stay with her baby just a little longer. Lack of truly affordable day care centers. Workplaces that punish parents for staying home with their sick babies. Lack of work- life balance. Lack of longer paid maternity leave.

          • Clarissa Again

            OK- You believe what you believe, I believe what I believe. Truce.

          • Meerkat

            I have seen a few daycare centers. They were located in the house basements. The kids napped on yoga mats. That was kinda horrific to me, but I guess it’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
            I am not apologizing for what I said. Nothing was lost in translation. I don’t quite understand why you are offended- I was talking about my personal reasoning for wanting to stay home with my son.It was a difficult decision and took a long time to make. My career has certainly suffered.

            I am not judging you or any other working mother. I am simply saying that certain childcare choices were unacceptable to me personally, and I would have been very very upset if I was forced by circumstances to accept them.

          • suchende

            Frankly, sounds like you did a pisspoor job investigating daycares, unless you live somewhere really rural.

          • Meerkat

            I didn’t say that I did an investigation. I just said that I saw some day cares that are like that and the whole concept of basement daycare bothered and repelled me. I’ve never encountered it before then, and so it was kinda shocking.

          • suchende

            You didn’t say you saw some that were like that, you said that you have been to daycares and they were in house basements. Those sorts of in-home daycares can be some of the most intimate (clients are often people the daycare provider knows personally, like friends, family or fellow church congregants), but they’re rarer and harder to find than typical “corporate” daycares, which are most assuredly above ground.

      • Elizabeth A

        I agree with Jessica here – my son started daycare at 10 weeks old, and it wasn’t remotely as bad as Meerkat is describing. I was fortunate to find a wonderful, group daycare that took excellent care of him. I was able to visit whenever I wanted, and observe the care for myself. Babies were fed on demand, there was a set schedule with naptimes for children past the infant stage (infants tended to just sleep whenever, and I came by a few times to find that a daycare lady was rocking my baby to sleep), diapers were changed both to a schedule (checked every two hours no matter what), and whenever there was a need.

        Yes, my kid was exposed to more illnesses at daycare then he would have been at home, but he never came down with anything worse then a stomach bug.

        I’m not convinced that he got less personal attention from the ladies at daycare then he’d have gotten at home. I read him my business school homework when he was little. I am not the constant coo and cuddle kind of mom. The daycare round of playtime, storytime, snacktime and circle time isn’t greatly personal, but it’s far from neglectful.

        The daycare ladies didn’t stay strangers for long, and we still drop by sometimes to say hi to Miss Kathy and Miss Yolanda.

        We have an awesome nanny too.

        I feel guilty sometimes, but not about my childcare providers.

      • Felicitasz

        Just what I have said earlier: the complete lack of choice unless one is really privileged. May everyone please excuse my English if I do not (can not always) use the proper nuances of shocked/ baffled / terrified / horrified / outraged / disgusted/ pissed – I am aware that these words all have different meaning, however, their net of associations might be different in my language and yours, and, consequntly, we non-native speakers are very often not fully aware of an expression being a much stronger (or weaker) statement in the target language than in our own. 12-week-olds are totally dependent on their caregivers and the same way we find the early in-family (suppose it is a reasonably good family) care and bringig-up a much better solution than the best of institutions, I see no reason why the majority of daytime hours spent in an institution during infancy could be a real alternative when compared to being cared for by one’s mother (father, grandmother etc.) at home. Please note that we might also have different sets of associations surrounding the word “day care”. Are everyone perhaps talking here about house-looking buildings with cheerful sunlit rooms and a ratio of 3-4 babies/ caregiver, as opposed to my from-mid-Europe definition of “day care” with 20 babies in one large schoolroom-like room, being cared for by one lead teacher and two nannies, all of them working around the clock feeding and changing diapers, carrying on their hips the ones that otherwise cry all day, but all in all hardly any personal talk, physical play, cooing, singing, or just simply looking into each other’s eyes in awe.
        May I say that I am “horrified” by this, too?
        http://www.cdc.gov/features/childrensmentalhealth/
        Plan of action:” increase understanding of the mental health needs of children.”
        Well… in case of infants, it MIGHT be their mother (father, etc.), huh?
        I can’t see a 12-week-old in day care and think that this is something so good that it is actually comparable to an otherwise “good enough” mother’s (father’s, etc.) care.

        • Clarissa Again

          Are you actually now inferring that working parents are responsible for childhood psychiatric illness? If you are then that’s ridiculous since I see no evidence that daycare before or after 12 months is even mentioned by the CDC report (although I didn’t get the chance to read it in detail). If you’re jumping to conclusions like this it’s because you have a strong negative bias against any out of home child care. Fine, I get that that’s your opinion but pulling the “poor misunderstood foreigner” card is not going to fly this time.

          • Clarissa Again

            Edit: You know what, I thought better of that last comment. I don’t really understand what you were getting at by posting that link to the CDC and I shouldn’t assume I do. I’m sorry if my assumptions were wrong. I feel that either because of the language barrier, my over sensitivity to the topic or maybe just our fundamental differences of opinion that this is not going to be a productive debate for me to engage in. Therefore I’m going to bow out and wish you all the best with kids.

          • Clarissa Again

            Darn! that last line should say “Wish you all the best with YOUR kids” I hate typing on the phone!

          • Felicitasz

            Thank you for the patience and edit and so on. To clarify:

            I am ok with “working parents”. However, I do think that the 12-week-long maternity leave in the US almost certainly has something to do with the children’s mental health problems in the US.
            My PERSONAL opinion is that even high-quality low-ratio day care can not be comparable with in-family, at-home care during the first year of life. Based on my degree in early childhood language development and related studies in psychology, I say that the time period between the 3rd and 6th life month is an especially bad time for changing the main care giver (the person who has the most personal interactions with the child during the hours the child is awake). Based on a meta-analysis done by Lucas-Thompson et al. in 2010, maternal employment PER SE does not have a negative effect on children (school achievement and behavior problems tested), on the contrary most of time. Whenever there is a negative effect, that concerns maternal employment during the first year (first 6 months) of life, influenced by several socio-economic factors such as the mother’s level of education and so on. However, when looking for negative effects, no one ever sorted the data according to quality of day care.
            They should. The US is a country with millions of underpriviliged mothers having to return to work no matter what, not being able to afford good quality child care.
            To sum it up: YES I do think that babies’ “mental health needs” reach farther than being fed, changed etc. with gentle movements and careful attention. Mental health needs are about being talked to, laughed at, sung to, carried about, rocked, cooed at and so on. Not for 3x 5minutes each day. Yes, I do think that the resulting lack of personal attention and love has something to do with the mental health statistics of 3-17 year-olds in the US.

          • Clarissa Darling

            I know I said I would bow out of this discussion but, now that I’ve calmed down from my initial reaction I will say that I agree with you that an infant’s developmental needs cannot be met by care takers who simply feed them and change them without other interaction. From my personal experience with daycare in the US, I feel that a majority of care centers do a good job of meeting those developmental needs. Certainly it’s still not “as good as” one on one interaction with mom and dad. To me it’s like the breast vs./formula thing. I believe that, all things being equal breastmilk/home care is “best” but, for parents who choose or must use formula/daycare, it can be a very good and healthy option (at least in this country) and it’s nothing that any mom should feel ashamed about. I wouldn’t say that I buy that having only 3 months leave is related to children’s mental health issues. I’m not an expert by any means but, psychiatric illness is a very complex disease and I think there might be more correlation than causation going on in this regard. I saw you and Meerkat stating your own experiences of child care and interpreted that you were unfairly implying it was true for all moms in the US. 20/20 hindsight, maybe I jumped to conclusions. I think I now at least understand where you’re coming from even though I don’t 100% agree with everything. We can agree on one thing though– the US could use some better parental leave policies. Sorry if I over reacted. Like I said, I hope it’s just the pre partum hormones!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Certainly it’s still not “as good as” one on one interaction with mom and dad.

            But that’s a false dichotomy. The question isn’t a matter of, should I send her to daycare, or take care of her at home? There is, at least, “should she go to daycare while I go to work or should I not work so she can have one-on-one interaction with me?”

            Because almost at a bare minimum, this is what the question entails. It makes no sense to be asking whether it’s better to go to daycare or to stay home with mom or dad without considering the other implications.

            If we are talking about sending your child to daycare while you stay at home, not working, then yeah, it’s obvious. However, you throw a little reality into the equation and it is not certain at all which is better.

          • Clarissa Darling

            I couldn’t agree more.

          • Felicitasz

            “you throw a little reality into the equation and it is not certain at all which is better.”
            We (all) seem to reach some shared points of view. I am questioning the exact details of the “reality” we talk about, and whether this is a good reality or not. The original post was about demanding breastfeeding rights at the work place. The reality related is breastfeeding and working full time all at once. Me from post-socialist Europe questions whether this makes sense at all, and why, indeed, not to stay at home for at least six to nine months, returning to work part-time; what part of the reality makes people (want to) go back to work after 12 weeks (even sooner because as I have learned it, 12 weeks is all people get as maternity leave before and after birth, combined… ). How the question “which is better” arises when, according to US Department of Labor, child-care workers make less than janitors, and there are no national regulations on day care quality (some states don’t mandatorily require any training from workers, according to Pamela Druckerman’s book Bringing up Bébé).
            Going back to Clarissa’s point: of course this is not about American mothers, and their choices. One can only choose from the existing options. The point is about what exactly these options are – obviously, some are better than others, but are even the “better” ones GOOD, or just “not that bad after all”?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            But how can you consider the trade-off if you only look at the one side, that of how evil daycare is? What is the other side of the equation, being the benefits to the family? That gets a lot more complicated because it depends completely on the individual’s circumstances, and the diversity of those in the US is huge. Everyone has a different set of circumstances and has to make that decision. It is pretty insulting to suggest that they haven’t consider the potential drawbacks of having their children in daycare, so we won’t suggest they haven’t done that.

            So what’s your problem? That parents should be more willing to do things that they don’t think is best for their family?

          • Meerkat

            I don’t think you see the point Felicitasz is trying to make. Of course day care is often beneficial for kids in terms if socializing and is necessary for some families so they can put bread on their tables. The problem is that most families are not in a position to choose what is “best for their family.” I am sure they are aware of the drawbacks, but how does that change their situation? Many people can’t afford a nanny, they can’t afford staying at home, they don’t have relatives who might stay with the baby, so daycare it is.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            I actually knew people who sent their children to daycare a couple of days a week who didn’t work. It seemed fine to me. She got what she needed done on those days so she had nothing but time for the children the other days and they got socialized.

          • Felicitasz

            I really liked how passionately you have reacted and then reflected on the fact that you have reacted passionately. You have no reason to apologize, and it would have been such pity to bow out of the discussion just because our opinions (and cultural backgrounds etc.) are so different that it is sometimes next to impossible to keep one’s cool. The thing I appreciate (on this blog generally, come to that) that there are hardly any personal lash-outs even in such sensitive subjects that indeed concern one’s family life and important (intimate) decisions.
            ” I saw you and Meerkat stating your experiences and interpreted that you were unfairly applying it to all moms the US.”
            I don’t know about Merkaat, but in my case, not at all. What I first felt in the US (having moved here from Canada) was an odd type of shame and guilt. I lived in a very mixed, multicultural neighbourhood in Pennsylvania, and that is where I realized that we (the immigrants) are in a better position than many women/ children who call the US their home – and this wasn’t the case in Canada. The governing power of money was a terrifying discovery for me – call me a socialist but I do have strong opinions about the health care system and the school districts and all such things, too, not only the very short or nonexisting paid maternity leave.
            (Upon getting a higher-ranked category of visa, an officer asked during our interview why we did not come sooner, and, what inour opinion the US could do to attract more “brains” from developed countries, especially Canada and the Western part of Europe. The answer is that people with graduate degrees from developed countries have a strong reason not to come to the US, unless they get into a high-paid position. The salaries here look really good until we deduct the expenses of health care, child care and in most cases the private school. The “safety net issue” is much more expensive here on the individual than anywhere else, and having seen its down/ darker side only AFTER having moved here was a shocking experience for me. )

          • Clarissa Darling

            I appreciate hearing more about your background and perspective. I’m married to an immigrant
            myself and I know how easily cultural misunderstandings can happen—sometimes they
            still occur between me and my husband 4 years into our marriage. Once I had time to reflect on that I realized I should at least give you the benefit of a doubt that some nuances could genuinely be getting lost in translation and that you meant no offense. You may have noticed I’ve edited my previous post to re state some things—just trying to find the clearest way to say things to avoid possible future misunderstandings! My husband is from a developing country and his parents were appalled to hear the US doesn’t mandate any paid leave. So yes, for all the great opportunity people have in the US we’re still stuck with maternity policies that are inferior to many in the developed and even underdeveloped world! I agree that it’s unfair that it doesn’t leave new mothers who either want to or must work with a lot of options. Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing before my due date so I’ve found a good quality daycare and though I do have new mom insecurities about leaving my Son, I trust that he will be well taken care of and that it will be best for our family in the long run.

        • Sullivan ThePoop

          I am a little confused as to why you would be horrified by the link. Those numbers are pretty consistent throughout the world, with the exception of ADHD which is higher here. If you are saying daycare causes ADHD I am not sure how that would be.

      • Kadabra Frederick

        GuestB – Thank you for your comment. I’ll be posting updates on my FB page, with major clarifications to the story.

    • Meerkat

      Yup! Well said!

    • Kadabra Frederick

      Felicitasz -Thank you for your comment. I’ll be posting updates on my FB page. There are several clarifications to my story – which will be posted soon.

  • KarenJJ

    This seems overly harsh to me. I have had some fantastic flexibility from my workplace, including negotiating paid maternity leave, returning part time hours, dropping part time hours, turning down travel, scheduling my work day around hospital appointments (managed to fit an ECG into a late and longish lunch break..), moving interstate and working from the local office instead of the normal office, work from home, short days in the office, unlimitted sick days/carer days …

    Sheesh, that’s a lot… And that’s not even getting to the issues I was having with being hearing impaired at one stage..

    But I’ve been loyal to them for ten years and will work late at night, go in on my days off, attend functions in my own time, travel at short notice (although I’ve turned most of that down since having kids). They still seem to want me around and I still seem to help bring in enough business.

    I don’t see it as over-entitlement. Workplaces have been used to having a workforce with a full time home provider taking care of all the other stuff society needs to keep ticking over – like raising kids, covering school books, removing nits, ironing business shirts etc. That stuff isn’t a waste of anyone’s time. It’s incredibly important too (except the ironing..). If a workforce is able to accomodate then why not? People who are carers need it, people with disabilities need it, people with chronic illnesses need it, people with other obligations – such as athletes – need it. Workplaces should be able to say ‘no’ if they have good reason (and maybe that’s the part Dr Amy is taking issue with) but workplaces don’t exist in a vacuum – they need society too.

    • Meerkat

      Your workplace is an exception. My former workplace was notorious equal opportunity exploiter. Need to go home on time (not early, on time)? Have children and a nanny that wants to go home at a normal time? Too bad! The company needs you!

  • yentavegan

    As a La Leche League Leader, when a working breastfeeding mother contacts me because she can not get her baby to take a bottle I assure her that a competent child care provider will make sure her baby is fed. Over the last 25 years I have spoken to so many mothers who use their baby’s reluctance to taking a bottle as a starting point to confess that they are looking for validation for not returning to the workplace.

    • Jay

      I wish I could think of a way to get out of working for a few years and not be called a bum by my friends and family. I’m a guy though, so no dice.

      • Older Mom

        I don’t agree with this woman, but I also don’t think that being a SAHM makes you a bum. It’s harder work than any job I’ve ever had.

        • JC

          Amen. My friends who work at least get to have long, relaxing lunches by themselves or with their spouses. My day is chaos from sun up to sun down. The only break I get is if I go to the gym when my husband gets home from work or if I get to go to the grocery store by myself. And I have to say no when friends want to go to expensive restaurants on the weekends because I don’t have the extra money. Wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it is very hard.

        • Clarissa Darling

          I don’t think Jay is saying that SAHMs are bums. I think he is saying that a woman who doesn’t work because she stays home with kids is usually seen as having a good reason not to work. On the other hand, a guy who doesn’t work is usually perceived as a bum (sometimes, unfortunately, even if he is staying home to be with his kids).

      • Meerkat

        Don’t feel bad. I am a SAHM “lazy bum.”
        My workday used to be 24 hours a day because I fed my son at night. Now it is from 6am to 10 pm. After my son goes to bed I clean and do laundry. I sweep, vacuum and wash the floors 3 times a day because my toddler eats everything off it. During my son’s naps I try to eat or take a shower, or do my lessons. I don’t have days off. I can’t ask for too much help from my husband because he is the breadwinner and he comes home exhausted.

        • Elizabeth A

          You sweep, vacuum and wash floors three times a day? I’m impressed, but I can’t for the life of me imagine cleaning at that level. Yes, the toddlers eat off the floor, but if we swiffer when the cat vomits, I declare victory.

          Similarly, I can’t imagine not asking my partner for help in this situation. Yes, he’s bringing home a paycheck, but if he never helps, when does he develop a relationship with the children?

          My DH was less then helpful in the newborn period – he sleeps like the dead, I exclusively breastfed, it’s an unsurprising story. There are a ton ways that he’s still paying for that, kidwise.

          • Meerkat

            Well, we have a smallish apartment, so it’s not that bad. I hate washing floors, but we have a cat, and the baby has a true fetish with weird floor crap. Plus the little bugger learned how to throw food to the floor, and it gets crusty pretty fast. Last week he ate a piece of feline pine kitty litter, and a chunk of cat hair, which was super gross, so I stepped it up a notch. My husband helps, of course, but the bulk of cleaning is still my job…

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I sweep, vacuum and wash the floors 3 times a day because my toddler eats everything off it.

          Suggestion: invest in an iRobot Roomba. Our guy (we call him Otto, as in “Otto-matic” and after Otto the fish in A Fish Out of Water) cleans a couple rooms a day for us these days. You can let him clean the rooms where your son goes.

          We love Otto at our house.

          • Meerkat

            Maybe… I am concerned that it might get clogged with all the sticky food my son manages to throw around!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            It handles them alright. There is a wet version to handle liquids

          • Meerkat

            Thanks, will definitely try it!

      • CanDoc

        Really? As the main breadwinner, my partner is a part-time SAHD who hangs with the other 3 SAHDs on our block. We’re lucky in that we live in a neighbourhood with many professionals – male and female – and maybe a few neanderthals have their say, but really, nobody cares. Least of all our families.

    • Lena

      Why can’t some women just own their choices and say they stay home because they want to? Instead of practically writing dissertations on how it’s the absolutely best way to raise children because of xyz reasons? So stupid.

      • yentavegan

        Why do some women look for excuses for staying home instead of returning to the workforce? Before these women became mothers they did not realise how motherhood would effect their self perception. Some mothers want to find valid excuses for being dishonest/disingenuous with their spouses. Instead of being frank and saying,” hey babes, let me stay home and be the retrograde stereotypical housefrau we used to mock.”

  • stacey

    I just cannot get upset over a mom wanting to take a break to go BF, then work extra to cover it. I would be willing to bet she would do lots of extra work, and if her request was allowed, she would be grateful and that would show in her efforts. Making requests of your employers in fine, and I think we need to fight for more workers rights, not less.

    That said, no she is not entitled to it. This is ‘Murica, we don’t have those moochy, socialist, pinko commie things like paid maternity leave, a safety net, or even health care- why would she think any company would do anything for her? If she was in a right to work/at will state, they could can her for it, or for nothing at all! This is the land of Atlas Shrugged, dont ya know?
    Demanding to BF? Good luck with that. She would have better luck demanding to open carry an assault rifle with a 50 round clip.

    (I know the point of the post was that employers should not have to consider what any random mom considers is “best” for her baby, when making such decisions. That she thinks she is entitled to this exception.

    • Joy_F

      Countries without paid maternity leave: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States

      I’m not sure “pink commie” is the correct description for nearly every other country on earth.

      • Jennifer2

        I totally agree with you, but I think Stacey was being sarcastic.

  • Jessica

    As someone who is still nursing her 14 month old, and who worked very hard to make breastfeeding work in the beginning, I certainly understand how she must have felt as her maternity leave was nearing its end and she realized her baby would not take a bottle.(As an aside, I hate that LCs give advice like “wait until just before you go back to work to introduce the bottle because OH NOES nipple confusion.” I hear more stories about babies refusing bottles than I do nipple confusion that prematurely ends nursing.)

    I also wonder how much of this woman’s reaction to the difficulty had to do with breastfeeding as opposed to PTSD, depression, and anxiety and general postpartum emotional upheaval. Which raises the question of whether she had a pre-existing reputation as a difficult/challenging employee with lots of requests that ultimately exhausted HR.

    • PollyPocket

      If the child is 14 months, there is no reason to worry about a bottle. The child is old enough to drink from a cup…

      • Jennifer2

        That is probably true (although toddlers can be very stubborn creatures, so making it reality may be challenging for some families). But I think both Jessica and the woman in this post were referring to the end of maternity leave at a much earlier age (6 to 12 weeks). While I understand that a baby can be cup or spoon fed at that age, realistically that’s going to be much less likely for most daycare providers to want to do.

      • Jessica

        Absolutely. But it seemed pretty clear to me that Frederick’s request for accommodation was made and denied when her child was still quite young: as the Globe article states, she was “terminated from her job last August for not returning to work after her maternity leave.”

    • auntbea

      Half the stuff I read said “Whatever you do, no bottle before six weeks.” and half said “Whatever you, introduce a bottle by two weeks.” How is a first-time parent supposed to know whether they have picked up the correct half?

      • Jessica

        My original plan was to wait six weeks before introducing the bottle. Well, best laid plans and all that – baby got a bottle at three days old after our pediatrician said nipple confusion was a myth. Well, he needed to eat and a supplemental nursing system was ridiculous, so bottle it was. But I’ll tell you, that first day back to work was much less stressful knowing that he would eat in my absence.

      • Clarissa Darling

        This is why I refuse to read any parenting advice books. I’m just going by the motto WWGD= What Would Grandma Do?

  • Kerlyssa

    High paid office job problems. I’ve never had a job you could take a baby to, much less take an hour or more of breaks staggered over a shift. It just wouldn’t work given the requirements of the job. How many women even work in that kind of slow paced, low responsibility environment?

    • Bombshellrisa

      I would love to see how this would work for the nurses working the floors of a hospital. Or even jobs like auto dent repair or paint repair (my husband does this for a living). Women are just as capable as men mixing color and matching it, and tapping out dents. But if I needed to go and take one of the accounts for the day so my husband could take another paint job, I could probably take a baby to work with me if it would be happy hanging out in a car seat or a sling if I was doing touch ups only. If I needed to nurse or pump, I would have to jump in a car or work van, use the employee lounge at the car dealership or go sit on the floor of the storage container where the equipment is stored. I would also have to time it so that it was while something was setting or drying, the process has a timeline and you have to stick to it or the paint will dry wrong and it will have to be done again. Sure, I have the right to go and nurse or pump, but I can’t just go whenever in a job like that.

      • auntbea

        Women with formal employment in Africa, including teachers and nurses, bring their children to work on their backs all the time and seem to do their jobs fine. But the culture is also totally different. Everyone takes responsibility for random children running around and no one bats an eye if you just pull out a boob (for your child or someone else’s).

        • KarenJJ

          I can’t imagine taking an infant to a substation or a mine site..

          • auntbea

            Well, not too many women work at substations or mines in Africa. But people also load their children three at a time onto the back of motorcycles with no helmets. You gotta do what you gotta do.

          • KarenJJ

            Yeah I’ve seen that in Asia. Unnerving at first.

        • An Actual Attorney

          Africa is a big place. There is no “the culture.” Cairo vs. Harare vs. Cape Town. — all different.

          • auntbea

            Would you like to attend my first lecture in Intro to Contemporary Africa, which deals with whether there is such a thing as “Africa” in cultural terms? (I don’t include North Africa, so no Cairo.)

        • Bombshellrisa

          If I could be assured that any of the salespeople on the car lot or any of the other people who are found on the lot or in the dealership in a day would be happy to feed, cuddle or distract my child while I do a touch up that is the difference between a car being sold or not, then I would probably be the one to take those odd calls instead of my husband or his partner. It’s not so bad with an older child, but with an infant or toddler, it’s near ly impossible. I had a thought that I could attach one of those “kid leashes” and tie it to the bumper of whatever car I was touching up, but I can’t see a dealership putting up with that from a vendor.

  • Bomulan

    This seems like an appropriate post to place an update. Today my psychiatrist, a Yale educated man, refused to prescribe me Klonopin (a drug I previously took 3x a day) because he felt I should continue to breastfeed for another month, until the baby is 3 months old. He said she needs ‘vitamins’ from my milk and that it would be best for her and that at 3 months when she “starts solids” (huh?) we’d start Klonopin again. Apparently me saying “I’m quitting breastfeeding.” isn’t enough of a reason to prescribe the appropriate medications.
    Thanks Lactivists. I’m quitting breastfeeding today, but won’t get my needed medications for another month thanks to breastfeeding propaganda. Hopefully I won’t feel the need to blow my brains out between now and then.
    I’m some combination of stunned and outraged that a doctor, especially a psychiatrist, could know so little about post partum depression, anxiety, and also breastfeeding.
    I don’t even know what to say beyond that.

    • Alenushka

      Get another doctor. Write a complaint about this one. His is acting outside the score of his knowledge base.

    • auntbea

      Having just come from Yale, allow me to assure you that the woo is strong there. But, you are his patient, not your child. His actions are unethical. Your GP should be able to get you a short-term supply of that medication, and may even wish have a word with your psychiatrist.

    • amazonmom

      I’m so sorry! I would switch psychiatrists permanently over that. This one is an idiot. Call the doctor that handles your non psych issues and explain what you need. They should be able to help you out and help you find a psychiatrist that doesn’t suck.

    • FormerPhysicist

      Just chiming in with support. Do complain if you have the energy. That’s just wrong.

    • Ob in OZ

      easy to say find someone else to prescribe the medicine while finding another psychiatrist, but much harder to do. Nevertheless, that is what you should do. Good luck.

      • amazonmom

        I totally agree with what you are saying. Getting rid of this doctor is worth the trouble!

    • kumquatwriter

      Please do call your GP. The effort may feel like too much but they can help you get meds.

    • Kalacirya

      I didn’t realize one’s psychiatrist was allowed to dictate what you did with your baby.

    • Jocelyn

      Unbelievable. I’m so sorry.

    • rh1985

      Wow. I had my own crummy medication experience this week so I get your frustration.

    • prolifefeminist

      I’m so sorry. That is just a totally, totally screwed up thing for a psychiatrist to do and he is way out of line. I’m sure the last thing you need right now is to have to fight to get what you need to be healthy. I’m sorry this is happening to you, and like the other posters said, I hope your GP or OB/GYN will understand and be able to help. I’m on anti-anxiety and antidepressant meds myself, and if my doc told me that I would be so angry. I’m sorry.

    • stacey

      You need to make a formal complaint. Then get a new doc. Any doc that puts BF over your need to be safe and sane is a hazard to all moms.

    • Young CC Prof

      Vitamins? Really? None of those in formula? And since when do we start solids at 3 months? That’s not even wrong. Definitely, talk to your family doctor or OB, or find a different psychiatrist.

      My psychiatrist said a couple seriously outdated things about pregnancy that he presumably learned in med school 30 years ago, but he’s NOT a weird lactivist. He said, “The important thing is to try to breast feed for the first week, so the baby can get the colostrum. After that it doesn’t matter so much, and we can get the baby on formula and you back on meds if need be.”

    • An Actual Attorney

      Well f@ck a duck. Get a new doc. Immediately. Call your GP. Good luck!

    • KarenJJ

      Has he even read anything about breastfeeding? One of my specialists looked into it for me for a relatively mild (tested OK on animals) drug, but it was rarely used on humans and he recommended that I not breastfeed while on medication once he’d read into it more. Made me start to wonder about all the magic I’d read about breastfeeding.

      • rh1985

        While it’s not the only reason, not having to deal with restrictions on medications and the opinions of doctors on whether I am “suffering enough” to justify a medication has contributed to my decision to definitely not breastfeed my baby once she’s born. My OB approved me going back on a category C medication because when I stopped it, I was getting 1-2 hours of sleep a day/night (whatever you want to call it – up all night and even if I tried all day that was the longest I could sleep), after a couple of weeks it continued to get worse, not better, and no safer option worked, so it was decided the stress on my body from lack of sleep was more dangerous. Despite this, the prescribing doctor CANCELLED the prescription AND DIDN’T TELL ME (I’m trying to find out if I have any grounds to file a complaint about him not informing me). So I went to refill and it was gone! Turned out the pharmacy told the prescribing doctor I was pregnant after I got prenatal vitamins and he decided he would cancel the prescription and not tell me. My OB ended up giving me a new prescription but it was such a pain.

    • emaky

      YOU are his patient, not the baby. his responsibilities are to YOU and your best interest, which evidently requires being on medication. COMPLAIN PLEASE.

    • Cascaritas

      Shrink here, and also current exclusive breastfeeder. How in this world this guy thinks that a happy, calmed and well rested mother is less important for your baby than some vitamins that formula contains.
      Interview some other psychiatrists to find a good fit for you.

  • Is there a link to the original story (I don’t see one in the post)? I’d love to read the comments at the newspaper.

  • PollyPocket

    Thoughts on working with young women:

    For most of my career, I have been the youngest or nearly youngest person in the department/office. I’m getting older, and that is changing quickly.

    Many people on this thread have made comments on how entitled the “younger” generation (20-30 year olds) is. I can certainly think of a couple of individuals like that who personify that stereotype. But for every one woman who is hopelessly entitled, I can think of four who blow me away with their work ethic and dedication in the workplace. Some have children, and some do not; regardless, they are just awesome to work with.

    The article is about one, seemingly delusional, individual. I don’t think it is fair to group a whole generation of women with her.

    • Awesomemom

      Hear hear! It gets discouraging when people complain about an entire generation (especially mine). There is a vocal whiny minority that makes it seem worse than it really is.

  • WhatPaleBlueDot

    Honestly, if the kid isn’t sick or unruly and loud, and the parent in question has his or her own office, I don’t understand why new parents shouldn’t be able to bring *infants* to work. Obviously, s/he would still be expected to meet deadlines and deliverables and so forth, but it would help a lot in reducing absenteeism, physical or mental.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      If she had a caregiver who could bring the baby there for her breaks and lunch I would agree that it was a resonable request. It is not resonable to expect to bring your infant to work or to leave and have longer breaks.

      • stacey

        A mom that works at the local Mc Donalds does this. Her grandma walks the baby over every few hours, she takes her scheduled 15min break, and nurses him. Once he eats, if there is time, they sit and chat for a few, if not, she goes back to work. No big deal.

    • suchende

      As a professional with my own office and infant, absolutely disagree. If you’re just as productive with an infant, something’s wrong with your typical work habits.

      • Guestll

        I work from a home office, and I have a 2 year old. I’ve been asked more than once, “oh, that’s great, so she can be home with you?”
        On what planet would having a 2 year old present be conducive to a managerial role??

        • Amazed

          On the same planet where working from home means “staying at home”.

          I constantly get asked, ‘Why don’t you have a baby already? You are home anyway!” Err, I work from home. Big difference.

          • suchende

            Some people who work at home wildly abuse the privilege. Others use the privilege to benefit themselves and their employer. Those sorts of reactions highlight which type the commenter would be…

          • Amazed

            Oops, my mistake here. I should have written “work at home”. I am my employer and employee. No, the problem is that many people don’t see my work as… well, work.

            But I guess I’ve just made my point. Lately, I’ve been working on something quite exhausting and I am not sure I know my own name, hence the “work from home” line. Now, if only baby didn’t mind being silent until Mommy has time for him or her, give me one!

        • BeatlesFan

          No kidding. My previous job involved duties both outside and inside the home- the in-home duties primarily being paperwork and making phone calls. I’d stay up until 1AM to finish paperwork because there was no point in trying to do it while my son was awake- every time I’d type three sentences, he’d need something I’d have to get up for. I had to lock myself in the bathroom to make phone calls because he’d follow me around the house, interrupting and asking if he could say hi.
          I love the IDEA of working from home, but with a needy, energetic 4-year-old and a 6-month-old? Yeah, not happening.

      • prolifefeminist

        I don’t know that I agree with that. There’s a difference between being efficient and being productive. If you’re willing to work the extra hours to make up for the time spent caring for your infant, in order to be as productive as you were pre-baby, what’s wrong with that? Depending on what kind of work you do, if your work hours are flexible and you have a “good” baby, it could work out just fine in the early weeks (months?) when they just sleep a lot and hang out.

        My first baby was a holy terror and I would never have brought him to work even if I could have – way too high maintenance. My second was the most mellow, relaxed baby in the world, and by then I owned my own business and was working from a home office. I was obviously not quite as efficient, but I was just as productive with her right there with me. I had to be – I was a single parent. I had the flexibility to stretch my workday out as long as I wanted/needed to, and I understand that not everyone does. I’m just saying, it certainly can work for some people.

        • suchende

          My opinion is colored by the fact that I bill by the hour.

          • KarenJJ

            I couldn’t do it with my kids. My job seems to need extended concentration – to kind of lose myself in it. It’s not like I could easily break concentration, deal with a baby’s needs and come right back to where I left off.

    • ‘Nother Lawyer

      Sorry, but even a well behaved infant is too much of a distraction for most employees. I think in limited circumstances it can work, as long as the employer feels that the reduced work performance is outweighed by the benefit of employee satisfaction.

  • Young CC Prof

    Personally, I believe that any true benefits of breastfeeding are NOT nutritional but come from affection, touch and closeness, meaning that a bottle of formula in a loving carer’s arms is superior to a bottle of breast milk alone in a crib. I’d have a damned hard time proving it, though!

    That being said, no, the law is not obligated to let you leave work every day to nurse your child. If your employer is willing to accommodate you, because your schedule is flexible and your work is just that good, then great. But they are under no obligation to do so.

    Absolutely, we should have reasonably long leaves for all new parents. To prevent this from encouraging workplace discrimination against women, we also need a social expectation that new fathers take leave also.

    I wish my husband or I had the option to work part-time, but we don’t, not at anything like our current hourly salaries. If I dropped out of the workplace for three years, we’d be strapped for cash and then I’d be starting my career from nothing all over again. If he dropped out, we couldn’t pay the mortgage at all. So, we’ll make it work somehow.

  • the fawn

    Employers are only obligated to make accommodations to keep you and your family alive…not to make sure your child has “the best” of everything. You are right in saying that if that is the standard, then no reasonable line can be drawn. She is lucky that she even has the opportunity to pump at work. Although there is new legislation stating that employers with more than 50 employees must provide time and a place to pump, the law does not provide any kind of penalty for employers who fail to do this. It also does not protect mothers who are fired for attempting to do this. Women working jobs like housekeeping or waiting tables or working construction rarely get maternity leave, and when they get back to work there is no reasonable way to let them pump in a clean/private environment. The fact that she is even able to express breastmilk at work is lovely because many of us don’t get to do that.

    • Stacey

      HA. Employers aren’t obligated to do anything for you, and many tottaly ignore the few rules there are. In many places, they can even fire you for no reason at all.

      The way the working world works these days, YOU are obligated to make the business money, and kill yourself doing 3 jobs because they laid off the other 2 workers, all to benefit the company. Middle class jobs have been hit the hardest, and new jobs being added are low wage at best. Expecting to be able to have extras just to BF? HAH, not in the USA. We can’t even have proper paid leave, health, or child care- we send moms back a few days after baby is born.

      If you think this isn’t the case, I don’t know where you work, but its not the average place in America.

      • the fawn

        I don’t know why you think I don’t agree with you…I totally do! Most women do not have the privileges that she has. Women working as servers or maids can’t exactly demand pumping breaks and a private place to do it that is not a bathroom. At least, they can’t do that without worrying about getting fired. We’re on the same team, I promise! That’s what I was trying to say. Maybe it didn’t come out right.

        There *is* federal legislation about providing women a clean and private place to pump that isn’t a bathroom. However, there are many loopholes, and there is no consequence for employers who refuse to abide by this, and no protection for women who are fired for asking.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    It seems to me that people have gotten sidelined on the issue of breastfeeding when that is not the main point of the post.

    The reality is that motherhood and a job will INEVITABLY conflict at times. The issue is how we resolve those conflicts. My claim is that the standard cannot and should not be that those conflicts must be resolved by the employer being forced to prioritize a mother’s view of what is “best” for her child.

    It is one thing to decide as a society that we wish to promote breastfeeding by making sure that women can pump breastmilk. It is another thing entirely to claim that an employer must comply with what each mother decides is best for her particular child.

    • Elizabeth A

      It’s not about breastfeeding? Because that’s right up there in the headline.

      If we leave breast feeding out of it (I’m more then willing to do that), we have to consider a number of other factors – do other employees flex their schedules for personal reasons? Is the employer’s refusal of this request an equitable instance of an employer having a set work day and needing employees to be on the floor or in the office during well-defined shifts, or is it a potentially discriminatory action? Is there any way in which breast feeding is a medical need in this case, and therefore potentially covered by the ADA?

      There’s been a pervasive idea on this thread that mothers can only work if they’re careful not to let parenting ever impinge on their work, but this is not a standard that we apply to other commitments. (Often, it’s not even a standard we apply to fathers.) Over the years, I have worked with people who took time off for higher ed (not always related to work), to care for parents, to care for pets, to deal with personal medical needs.

      Some workplaces are genuinely unable to be flexible, but more are simply and counterproductively unwilling, which isn’t good for anyone.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        “There’s been a pervasive idea on this thread that mothers can only work if they’re careful not to let parenting ever impinge on their work”

        No, the reality is that parenting and work will INEVITABLY conflict. The issue is what an employer is required to do when the inevitable conflicts happen.

        • Elizabeth A

          I think it’s shortsighted for us, as a society, to say that the solution to that conflict is for the employer to cut the employee loose. In some cases, that may be unavoidable, but this doesn’t appear to me to be one of them.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            The employer didn’t cut her loose. She stopped coming in. There is no need for this women to take more/longer breaks than other mothers because she refuses to teach her 14-month-old to use a cup. My nephews have been using a cup since they were 8 months old.

          • auntbea

            It sounds like she was asking for permission to leave to feed him soon after he was born, so he wouldn’t be on solids or a cup yet. The baby is 14 months now, but not at the time she decided not to go back to work.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            Oh, okay. I misunderstood that part. I thought they were saying it was when he was 14 months.

          • Clarissa Darling

            Where I work if you stop coming in without notifying your boss for enough days in a row you are not considered to have been fired, you are considered to have quit without notice. The only way you would be considered to have left involuntarily is if there were extreme extenuating circumstances–like if you woke up in a hospital with amnesia and no documentation to show who you were–otherwise you are expected to call in or have someone else call in if there is an emergency.

          • BeatlesFan

            That’s something in the article that confuses me- it states she is now collecting unemployment. Unless things have changed since 2011 when I last collected unemployment, the only ways to get unemployment in NH is to be laid off, furloughed, or seasonally unemployed. Last I knew, one couldn’t receive unemployment benefits if they either quit or were terminated. Not really the point of the article, I know, but it makes me wonder what the unemployment office considered her to be.

        • Alenushka

          Figure out better policies. When my work realized that staff was missing work because their care-giving arrangement fell through , my HR arranged for emergency caregiver coverage. This benefit is $5 an hour and up to 80 hours a week. one can use it for a nanny for kids or a caregiver for the elderly and disabled. Productivity went up.

      • PollyPocket

        There is a justified concern from employers, especially those in small businesses that working moms are less productive that other employees. And sometimes this is very true. Employees who have to call in at the last minute because they’re having yet ANOTHER babysitter crisis and everyone else has to take the slack is one example.

        Those of us who wish to forward our careers have to work very hard to overcome the actions of our coworkers. When stuff like this hits the news you better believe it makes employers think twice about hiring/promoting women with young children.

        • WhatPaleBlueDot

          These women are calling in because of an insufficient support system that exacerbates the inequalities relating to parenting in our culture.

        • auntbea

          What is the solution you see to this dilemma?

          • PollyPocket

            I don’t think anyone has a good solution. But to all those proposing longer maternity leave, that doesn’t help people with older children (who, in my workplace, seem to have more issues).

            I think it should at least be acknowledged that if women fight for more and more privileges, especially with regard to parenting, all women who are parents or of childbearing age will become less desirable employees compared to others, all else equal.

            There are unintended consequences to every policy.

          • auntbea

            Well, but you seem to be blaming women who have children for making it harder for you to advance in your career by asking for accommodation. What else would you like for them to be doing instead? Not having children? Working part-time? Leaving the child at home alone?

          • notahomebirthlactivist

            Yeah I wonder too. It Would be nice if more equal responsibility fell to fathers too though. Why is it always assumed mothers must take all the family leave days anyway? As Dr. Amy said, parental responsibilities and workplace responsibilities will inevitably clash. It’s up to us to build a workplace culture which is tolerant of families within reason, and which doesn’t expect people to see their job as their whole world. I adore my job but yeah you better believe if my son has an asthma attack or needs an operation, or some other bad shit happens to my kids, they take priority over my job . If you can’t understand why or you think working women are ruining the workplace because they want to be responsible parents… well .. I can’t say what I think of that. Pretending that women with children are the same as men is stupid. obviously we get pregnant and we do have breasts, so having a system which acknowledges that and accomodates that is a good start. beyond that, I think heaps more could be done to help employees (both mothers and fathers) balance work and family life. Some of the great stuff like flexi hours, on site creche, or the option to accumulate extra annual leave. I think it has to be reasonable and suit the workplace needs. This story about this woman is a bit crazy.. you can’t expect to be leaving your place of work several times a day for extended breaks. I feel sort of sorry for her, it was clearly not going to be easy for her to return to work, but it does seem like her request went too far.

          • KarenJJ

            Longer maternity leave does help a lot with infant care and breastfeeding. I get 12 months a year and yes I sometimes found those 12 months tedious and lonely, but I was very glad to have that time with my baby at that stage. My 2yo now goes to daycare happily and my 4yo goes to kindy and I know they have enough independence to cope. There might be issues later, but they’ll be at school full time and after school care is available at our local school.

        • Alenushka

          My job has emergency caregiver coverage. 80 hours a year. Most kind and awesome thing ever.

      • Esther

        You’re absolutely right, but in the case of the woman in the OP, her barriers to work aren’t insurmountable. The fact that her baby might have a learning curve taking EBM in a bottle or cup is a minor challenge many working women face successfully. She doesn’t want to subject her special snowflake to the horrible ordeal (rolling eyes) of getting used to a bottle? Her ideology dictated that only breastmilk direct from the tap is acceptable? Her employer doesn’t have to agree to that.

        • Elizabeth A

          I’m not clear that this an entirely ideology directed thing. Bear with me.

          First, the fact that the baby is 14 months old NOW is certainly not an indication that this is only a problem now that he’s 14 months old. Things do take time to work through the legal system. This may have begun as an issue when the child was 3 or 6 months.

          I started business school when my son was 10 weeks old, and he was a stubborn kid who refused to take a bottle. We did eventually work it out, but there was a period when we hung fire with the daycare provider. The policy of the group daycare was that they couldn’t have a child in care unless someone could feed him. If they couldn’t get him to take the bottle, they would need me to come nurse, or they would need me to make other arrangements.

          So what this case may be – and really, I don’t think any of us have all the details – is a case where a woman was caught between the employer and the DCP, and just trying to make *some* arrangement work.

          • Esther

            Truth be told, it might not even have originally been *her* ideology but one she was brainwashed into by a bevy of ‘birth professionals’ – quoting from the original article:

            “Frederick needed to breast-feed: She developed gestational diabetes
            while pregnant, and her lactation consultant, midwife, and nurses all
            told her that breast-feeding would be best for her and Devon’s health.
            She also deals with ongoing issues of anxiety and post-traumatic stress
            disorder, putting her at risk for post-partum depression — which breast-feeding can help stave off by facilitating mother-baby bonding and releasing endorphins.”

            Which is either a flimsy excuse on her part (BF can’t prevent GD in a subsequent pregnancy nor is it clear that BF staves off PPD; in any case, a pumping mother is still breastfeeding her baby directly when not at work) or an expression of ideology where only straight from the tap will do and pumping is unacceptable. Which is why I responded as I did above.

    • Jennifer2

      I absolutely agree that we should not move in the direction of mandating that employers must structure their workplace around individual parents and their parenting choices. However, the “workplace” (in the sense of the world of wage labor) has, from the outset, been structured primarily around a predominantly male workforce, where the tasks of raising children were handled primarily by a stay-at-home mom. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that in the course of fighting for equal rights, those systemic structures should be addressed and that where they unnecessarily perpetuate the idea that child-rearing should be separated from working (in time or place or whatever) they should be challenged and changed. Certainly there are ways in which the two should be separate. You can’t have a garbage truck driver bringing their toddler along on their route or a doctor taking their infant to surgery with them. But to the extent a job can provide flexible work hours, reasonable parental leave, leave time to care for sick children (or other family members), on-site childcare, etc. then I think it should.

      • Jennifer2

        And it’s not just about parenting (although that seems to a common sticking point since having children is seen as a lifestyle choice). We seem to have become a society that prioritizes work in and of itself. We don’t really see working as a means to an end, with the end being providing a certain standard of living for a family (whatever that definition – single person, childless couple, single parent, nuclear family, multi-generational or extended family). Flexibility allows for care of an elderly parent or ailing spouse, for individuals or couples to go on a vacation, for people to continue an education or take up a hobby.

        • suchende

          I don’t see work as a means to an end because for me it isn’t. My profession is who I am.

          • Jennifer2

            And that is fine on an individual level. I have always felt the same way and really, really struggled with balancing work and family after my son was born (still do). While I have changed a little bit, I still very much see myself as my profession and derive much self-esteem and satisfaction from that role. What I think isn’t fine is a societal expectation that 1) most people should feel the same way and 2) if you don’t work a certain way (40+ hours a week, outside the home, for an employer or your own small business, with ambition to advancement of some sort) then either something is wrong with you or your job is not quite as legitimate or valued as those that fit in that norm.

          • suchende

            It’s an interesting topic that I will need to spend more time thinking about.

            My first reaction, after mulling it over a couple hours, is that 1) society doesn’t (shouldn’t?) reward mediocrity. Of course there is nothing wrong with not making your work the center of your world, but will you ever be at the pinnacle of your field? Will you be able to make the same contributions as someone who does put work first? I don’t know if it makes sense for society to NOT see moderate people as “less than.”

            2) employers of course have few incentives to encourage moderation.

          • Jennifer2

            I guess i have to play the lawyer and ask then what “the pinnacle of your field” means. I have accepted that I will never be a US Supreme Court justice and probably will never be a federal court judge or even a state supreme court justice. I will almost certainly never be an equity partner in a large firm or in-house counsel for a major corporation. Coming to the realization that i will not likely ever attain greaness was very, very hard for me. As a child, I saw any grade less than an A as failure. On the first day of law school, when the dean of students was raving about how our entering class had the highest GPAs and LSAT scores in the school’s history, and that we had classmates who had done amazing things, even one who climbed Everest, I felt wholly inadequate. But I made it through, got decent grades, and landed my dream job. I work for a legal aid organization. Even within specific field, I may never reach the pinnacle. In fact, I don’t want to. I don’t want to run the Legal Services Corporation. I might want to run a legal aid organization some day. Or I might just want to keep doing the work that I do, but do it better, so it more effectively, help more people, change systems. And I would like to not spend my every waking moment doing so because 1) that’s how you end up losing vacation time because you accrued more than you can carry over; 2) that’s how you end up totally burned out; and 3) there are other things I care about and have an interest in.

          • Jennifer2

            If that makes me mediocre or less successful or less valuable to society than someone working 80+ hours a week at a huge firm, okay. Half my clients already question whether I’m a real lawyer anyway. 🙂 But I think I would rather try to be good at what I do, even if I’m never the best at anything ever again. Society tends to have a pretty screwy value system anyway. Everyone wants to be the doctor, and no one wants to be the janitor. But I don’t care how good your surgeons are if no one wants to clean the operating room.

          • suchende

            What I am getting at is, no one is going to invite the of counsel attorney who had a manageable schedule and packed her kids a vegetable and a fruit in their lunch each day to give a law school convocation address. So to that extent, your job WON’T be as valued or as legitimate as people who didn’t guard their personal life and strive for moderation. It’s sort of inevitable that the accolades go to the people who were the worst at work/life balance.

            Now, for people who have been high-achievers their whole lives, I am guessing it’s an especially difficult thing, to accept trading sanity for that particular strain of praise. And maybe moderate, balanced career paths do get shorted unfairly when esteem is getting handed out. I don’t know, and it is an interesting question.

          • KarenJJ

            My career identity is very important to me too.

          • LibrarianSarah

            I obviously share this sentiment. Maybe not completely but being a librarian is a large part of my identity.

    • PollyPocket

      I agree 100%!

      There were many single moms who worked with me when I was at a level 1 trauma center OR that required overnight call. The single moms often did not have convenient childcare lined up that would facilitate being able to scrub within 30 minutes of getting called, but tough cookies. No one cared. A kind soul might offer to take a day or two or trade call nights, but policy was policy and no one got any sort of special treatment.

      Figuring out overnight childcare at the drop of a hat when you are paid $4/hour to be on call is much, much harder than giving a 14 month old a developmentally appropriate cup with a nutritious beverage of choice.

      And had any single parent insisted that the rules were not fair because of their home situation, the response would have been, “that’s a shame. Feel free to use me as a reference, since I assume you’re applying for more appropriate jobs.”

      • auntbea

        Well, sure, if a key component of the job is to be there at any time, immediately, when you are needed, then someone asking for schedule adjustments is someone not doing their job. But for many women, the job consists of completing certain tasks without a set schedule, which leaves much more room for accommodation of parenting responsibilities. It is not inherently unreasonable or unprofessional for women to ask for accommodation.

      • Alenushka

        I do not know why we can not be kinder as a society. It is cruel what we do to each other.

        • suchende

          If you want a high-demands job, there are consequences. They tend to come with better pay and more esteem but less flexibility.

          • Alenushka

            It is not really true. Yahoo CEO get to have a nursery next to her office while she banned telecommuting for the the rest of the employees. Many low wage jobs have zero flexibility

          • suchende

            I am sure Mayer puts in longer hours than you or I have ever worked. Telecommuting should be allowed if there is strong evidence that it’s not harming the company. Google doesn’t allow it and they’re kicking Yahoo’s ass.

          • auntbea

            Well, but Google does allow all sorts of other accommodations. Fathers get a huge amount of family leave time.

          • suchende

            Does Yahoo not have generous paternal leave?

          • amazonmom

            The big techy companies in Seattle all offer paternal leave. Taking it is another thing. It WILL affect the perception of dedication to your job and it WILL affect Dad’s position. Most of the tech dads on leave because of their NICU babies aren’t really on leave, they are just program managing from their kid’s private room.

          • KarenJJ

            My career has surprised me with how flexible it is. Technical careers can be very full on, but with a good workplace culture I’ve been able to work around a lot of issues with my kids and my health and needs.

  • almostfearless

    None of this would be an issue if we had more maternity leave in the US. In Sweden they get 16 months for each child and you can split it up how you like, with both parents at home or just one, part-time, full-time or a mix. This woman doesn’t have a legal right only because we haven’t granted those rights here. Her solution is a little weird, but maybe she’s just trying to make a point.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      “None of this would be an issue if we had more maternity leave in the US.”

      No, that’s not the issue. The issue is not breastfeeding. It’s whether an employer has to accommodate what a mother deems is “best” for her child. Suppose the mother insists that what is “best” for her child is that she must volunteer in her child’s classroom for an hour each morning. Maybe that is what is best for her child. Does that mean an employer has to comply?

      • AllieFoyle

        Well, to a certain extent, generous parental leave and policies that encourage flexibility negate the conflict. If you have scandinavian-style maternity leave, you don’t have to choose between breastfeeding your child and keeping your job. We can all think of examples that would be outrageous or absurd, but I think most of us also realize that there is some value in parenting and thus accommodating the needs of the people who are doing it. It’s just a question of how much accommodation we think is reasonable. In the US, the answer seems to be not very much. That isn’t the case everywhere, though.

      • almostfearless

        Best for her child? It’s breastfeeding, it’s not a mommy and me class. It’s kind of a stretch to say that she only has two options: pump or stay home. This woman doesn’t sound like a great example, but why couldn’t a woman breastfeed at work? Have her caregiver run in 4 times a day, hop in the bathroom, spend 15 minutes breastfeeding and then continue on. Yes the employer would be eating about 1 hour of work time, but we already ask employers to absorb some of the costs of having children, and other countries ask for much more. The cost of retraining and rehiring if she quits would be much higher anyway. But again, I don’t know this woman’s motives, or what’s going on with just staying home this whole time, sounds like something else is up.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          She DOES have only two options: pump or stay home and she SHOULD have only two options: pump or stay home.

          • Elizabeth A

            So what’s happened to formula as an option? If the job can be done on a slightly flexible schedule, why should that be automatically ruled out?

          • almostfearless

            I think because it’s part of her bodily functions, it’s different. If I have a surgery or disability, my employer would make reasonable adjustments. She could use her two breaks and lunch to cover most of it, and if she did it in the bathroom or in the parking lot, I don’t see a problem.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Why SHOULD she only have 2 options in your opinion? What would be wrong with say a law that said that mothers up to 12 months postpartum could chose a schedule that paid them 7 hours per day instead of 8 and their job was protected for a year? They could use the time to pump or breastfeed or take calls from the childcare person or whatever. Why preferentially protect pumping and not other parenting activities that cut into productivity?

            Sure, such a policy might make women less attractive to hire, spoiling it for the rest of us. But lots of women already are spoiling it for the rest of us. That so many women drop down to part-time spoils it for the rest of us. Women dropping out of the workforce spoils it for the rest of us.

            This woman’s solution was to fight for greater workforce accommodations. Your solution was to drop down and then drop out. My solution has been to stop believing that mothering (as opposed to other loving care) is somehow special and to insist that my husband be an equal partner. We can all point fingers all day long I suppose.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            The woman is claiming that she is entitled to a longer maternity leave. She’s claiming that she is entitled to leave her office to breastfeed her baby at daycare.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I didn’t mention anything at all about maternity leave length, so I’m not sure why you are drawing that into the conversation. I’m talking about making the work day *once a woman has already returned from her maternity leave* more flexible. I proposed a possible accommodation model that would be equitable for moms who pump, moms who feed from the breast, moms who formula feed and also would work for women who would elect to say “No thanks, I’ll work the full 8 hours”.

            I realize that coming from your generation the idea of not just taking your lumps might seem lazy or entitled, but times are changing. Your indignation over what she is doing reminds me of something I read about the fight for gay marriage rights. Forty years ago in my state, a gay couple walked into the courthouse and asked for a marriage license. When it was denied, they sued. Not only did they lose their case in a spectacular fashion, they got a lot of push-back from other gays: “Don’t rub their faces in it, it makes us all look bad”. But now we have gay marriage in my state.

          • auntbea

            My mother was of that generation. She worked 60 hours weeks as a single parent, and traveled for a week at a time, while I stayed home alone. I am pretty sure she would not have taken more flexibility if it were offered, because she believed women had to show they were serious about work. She has very little patience for women who either ask for accommodation OR leave the workforce.

            But it wasn’t really *HER* who took the lumps. Besides me, my neighbors spent a lot of time taking me places and cooking me dinner on the sly.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Who would you rather have as your obstetrician, a doctor who needs to leave in the middle of your C-section to breastfeed her infant? Or one who can pump before or after your C-section?

            What you view as “taking your lumps,” I view as fulfilling professional responsibilities.

          • fiftyfifty1

            We doctors have always been held to a higher level of responsibility than workers in other jobs and I think it’s fine to take this into account when making policy. A doc leaving the hospital when they are the one doc of their type on a shift in the hospital could be prohibited. But flexibility at other times or in other ways could be ok. As an example, an OB could choose to leave for short times during a clinic day as long as there was another doc there in clinic. Or somebody could bring a baby into the doc’s call room for a quick nurse. These are 2 examples I have already seen happen in real life that have worked fine. Hell, a few of the OB residents I know conceived their babies during an on call night. Doctors are humans like everybody else despite their greater responsibilities.

          • auntbea

            Wait, how did “asking for leave to nurse twice a day” turn into “asking for leave to nurse right this very second?” One of those is obviously not reasonable, but one of those might be.

          • suchende

            Who works 8 hours anymore? I graduated from college in 2006 and have never had a 9-5.

      • fiftyfifty1

        The law has already spoken on the school issue. You get 16 hours per year, unpaid, to attend school functions.

  • Elizabeth A

    Of topic (that is totally my thing this week) – have any of you seen this? http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/201381615448464851.html

    Best take on working motherhood I’ve seen in a long time.

  • attitude devant

    These fools do NOT speak for me! I am a working mother and a successful one. I am an employer and we have a special lounge for our pumping mothers and do all we can to facilitate continued nursing. It requires flexibility on both sides. But what this woman was asking to do was not reasonable, and I say this from my position as a former breastfeeder and as a current employer of nursing mothers. If we had any sense as a culture, we’d have government sponsorship of paid maternity leaves for 12-14 months as is done in most sensible First World countries. This woman is wasting our energies on a petty case when she should be advocating for the bigger issue.

    • AllieFoyle

      But if this woman had been able to take a reasonable amount of leave I doubt this would even be an issue. She was asking for the temporary flexibility to feed her 6 week old infant, who was a two minute drive away. This woman wanted to work and to care for her child. I don’t see why that makes her a fool.

      • attitude devant

        So she has 12 weeks FMLA. Why not stay home an additional few weeks and focus on getting the baby bottle ready? If the medical case for her physically feeding is so strong (and I do think it is grossly exaggerated) why not get medical documentation of her need to extend her leave? My point is (and I have experience with both angles) that if her goal is to continue working and to give her baby only breastmilk, she’s going about it all wrong. To say that she can leave the office, drive two miles, settle into a feed, finish it, drive two miles and re-enter the office all in thirty minutes is nowhere near realistic. And (here’s where I get really confused reading the article) her baby is going to be fed only once during her work day? What? Is she perhaps asking for two extended breaks (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) plus her lunch break?

        I am reminded of when I was teaching faculty at an OB/GYN residency and we had to fire a resident who was repeatedly using her child as an excuse for not doing her work or being prepared for her cases. This was very odd for all of us because our residency was sort of famous in our area for being mother-friendly. I had kids in the residency and many others did too. We all made it work and everyone thrived. But this mom was constantly late for rounds and clinic and there was usually some really stupid reason like “I overslept because I stayed up late baking chocolate chip cookies for the Kindergarten Halloween party.” Now mind you, I think that cookies are awesome, but a resident really needs to be on time and be prepared for her cases. This is not a silly requirement; it is essential. Nope, it wasn’t that you couldn’t mother in our department, it was just that you couldn’t mother the way this resident wanted to mother.

        • amazonmom

          Sounds like someone was using their child as an excuse to be a crappy doctor.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Or maybe not…..

          • amazonmom

            I guess I’m pretty heartless when it comes to this. It must have been pretty awful to realize being the kind of mother she wanted to be was not compatible with OB/GYN residency. Showing up late and not preparing for cases was not the way to handle the issue.

          • Clarissa Darling

            I don’t call this being heartless, I call it being a realist.

        • fiftyfifty1

          I’m sure that resident drove you crazy. On the other hand, I think it’s a real pity that residency policy hasn’t changed the way med school policy has. Med schools are WAY more flexible than they were 15 years ago. Now you can go part time or take big chunks of time off for parenting or travel or internships or what have you. Maybe that resident was just flaky at heart, but maybe she would have done just fine with a job-share residency split with someone else. As it was, society put in hundreds of thousands of dollars to educate her to that level and got nothing for their investment. Bummer.

          • attitude devant

            I don’t think a part-time residency is a good idea in a field like OB/GYN. Too many skills to master, and juggling responsibilities is a HUGE part of the skill set. And this lady’s problem was NOT the residency; it was her starry-eyed conception of what kind of mother she wanted to be. She wanted to be a classroom mommy and a field-trip mommy and on and on and on. That’s just not compatible with residency.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Maybe a part time residency works better in some fields than others. On the other hand they do seem to produce OBs even in countries with much more strict residency work hours.

          • stacey

            But, CPMs only need to take a few online classes, why would you need all those hours? Jeez.
            /snark

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Actually, I suspect that the changes in medical school and residency are turning out crappy doctors. I don’t want a doctor who focuses on anything but me during the time she is actually caring for me. I’m not interested in the doctor’s flexibility, nor do I think I should be.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Well that was always the fear. That was the excuse always given to defend q3 call and 36 hour shifts and the like. But what studies we have show that actually the kids are alright. You don’t want a doc who hasn’t been tempered in the fire. I don’t want a doc who is burned out. Generational differences.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            But a growing body of evidence suggests that when house officers work shorter shifts and less call, mistakes soar.

            Th single most important thing patient needs from her doctor is time.

        • Ob in OZ

          Two female residents while I was in training. Both had children. One never thought twice about how it affected her training or the others she worked with. The other was extremely thoughtful, to the poit where she ruptured membranes when on call and still finished her shift since she wasn’t contracting! I’m sure they are both excellent mothers. Guess which one is the better Doctor.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I thought I remember reading that you wrote that you weren’t able to be successful with breastfeeding because you were forced to ween very early because of your job situation or am I confusing your story with someone else?

      • attitude devant

        I had poor supply. Tried pumping, tried having her brought to me on when on call, but supply was always low. Some of that was exacerbated by long hours on my feet, and spotty access to meals and liquids, I’m sure. Since my bug was happy with formula and very sociable with anyone who would cuddle and feed her, it got way easier to just bottle feed.

  • R T

    I don’t know about this one. If America had longer paid family leave, like every single other country, this really wouldn’t be an issue. Besides, when I worked in the corporate world the cigarette smokers took more frequent and longer breaks to nurse their cigarettes than this woman would need to nurse an infant.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      I have never had any employer let smokers take more or longer breaks than anyone else.

      • Rue

        I had employers allow smokers take additional breaks to smoke. I also thought that was a little weird.

        • KarenJJ

          Yep. Me too. In fast food smokers got more breaks then non-smokers. In my BILs chem lab, smokers got more breaks. In a mine site I worked at ‘smoko’ was allowed for smokers and non-smokers, but smokers often took other quick breaks in between scheduled ‘smoko’ breaks.

          I think the reason was that everyone else could take coffee or tea breaks when they needed it, so smokers could do the same but have a cigarette.

          I thought of the same thing about people taking smokos and people needing breaks for pumping or breastfeeding.

      • R T

        And I have! In fact, I would occasionally bum a cigarette just to enjoy the nice long break. I would always find a few managers out there chatting and smoking away. Happened at a financial management company in Beverly Hills and a retirement community company national corporate head quarters in another area of CA. My guess would be you didn’t have upper management who smoked cigarettes!

        • Sullivan ThePoop

          Well, I smoked when I was more actively involved in running the business I started with some of my friends. I never let smokers take longer or more breaks. Though, I was never a heavy smoker.

  • kumquatwriter

    I think my HR director single mom put it best: you can be an excellent parent, an excellent spouse and an excellent employee. Choose two.

    • Elizabeth A

      That’s batshit. I mean, I see how she got there, but it’s also insane.

      It really should be more like “If we want excellent employees, we need to be excellent employers.”

      • suchende

        I posit that excellent benefits do not attract excellent employees.

        • stacey

          Of course they do.
          People that are great at what they do, and have value in their field, will go where they are treated the best. There is no reason to accept less, when you do not have to.

          • suchende

            In my field, the firms at the top have horrible benefits across the board (but excellent pay). So it’s not obvious at all. The expectation is tireless hours for $$$.

        • Jennifer2

          Excellent benefits alone do not attract excellent employees. Excellent compensation for your work does. Whether that is “we pay you a zillion dollars for being available at 2 a.m.” or “we can’t pay high salaries, but we have the best insurance in town and 5 weeks of paid vacation to make up for it.” It’s the feeling that your employer values your work adequately in whatever form (cash $$$, fringe benefits, professional accolades, etc.)

        • auntbea

          But crap benefits can cause excellent employees to go elsewhere.

          • suchende

            That isn’t at all true in the world of large law firms. The most prestigious firms that attract the best students from Harvard and Stanford tend to have terrible benefits packages. No retirement contribution, expensive healthcare plans, etc.

    • Carolina

      I am so glad I don’t work there…
      I think I’m doing pretty well at all three. It’s not easy, but it’s doable with the right resources and the right employer.

    • stacey

      I can only really do ONE thing well. If I have to do all 3, they will all be somewhat half assed. Good thing I have a partner to pick up my slack.

    • me

      And since your husband can divorce you and your boss can fire you, guess who suffers when we try to “have it all”.

  • Sarah

    Great topic and a good discussion. I think this post does miss he mark even though I’m a huge fan. Besides working for longer parental leaves, I think it’s reasonable to support breastfweding from the source as an alternative to pumping. As a school librarian, I too had no real ‘breaks’ to pump. And I worked in an urban school with only water coolers. The tap water was unsafe. It turned out to be faster for my caregiver to bring my baby to work, and me run downstairs once or twice a day to nurse in 15 min. Had I pumped, the ordeal of hooking myself up, walking my milk down to the communal fridge to store, and cleaning up with no water would have easily been 30+ each time. I was more productive nursing.

  • Jessica

    I pumped three times during the course of each work day from the time my son was eight weeks old until two days before his first birthday. I was in my private office with access to email and the phone and often did work while I pumped. I stopped taking a lunch out of the office to make up the lost time while pumping. I did not realize how much of a drain pumping was on my productivity and concentration at work until I stopped.

    I think this woman is seriously underestimating just how disruptive her request to leave the premises for 30 minutes per break to go breastfeed would have been, not only for her but also for her coworkers.

  • me

    Just one contradiciton:

    “My generation of women, and the generation that came before me,
    struggled mightily to convince professional schools, employers and
    colleagues that women are every bit as capable and every bit as
    responsible as male employees. We managed to do so AND successfully
    mother our children.”

    And:

    “Now a new generation of women is declaring that, no, women cannot be
    expected to be every bit as capable and professional as men. Once they
    have a baby, the baby trumps all and they must be allowed to do whatever
    they want, whenever they want, by saying the magic words, “it’s good
    for my baby.””

    Maybe you all didn’t do as good a job as you thought, seeing as this “new” generation of women is the same generation that you “successfully mothered”. Just a thought…

    • GuestB

      Nice try.
      But unless you live in Lala Land, I’m pretty sure (in simple terms) “successful parenting” means raising happy healthy kids. It does not mean ensuring that they don’t whine about stuff when they’re old enough to know better.

      • me

        They don’t stay kids. The point of parenting is not to have “happy healthy kids” but to raise productive members of society. You know, adults. Fully functioning grown ups who don’t have an overblown sense of entitlement and take personal responsibility. Somebody dropped the ball there. Maybe they were too busy focusing on “happy healthy kids” and didn’t pay enough mind to the fact that kids grow up.

        • GuestB

          My parents are awesome, loving people. They raised me and my brother. I am a fully functioning grown up who does not have an overblown sense of entitlement and I take personal responsibility. I am a productive member of society. My brother, on the other hand, is an asshole. To say that my brothers assholery is my parents fault is just plain…stupid.

          • me

            On a case by case, individual basis? Sure, you can do everything “right” as a parent and still have your kid turn out to be an “asshole”. When an entire generation gripes about the way another entire generation turned out…. not so much. It’s as tho they forget that they are the ones that raised that younger generation. They don’t like the way the younger generation turned out, but guess who raised them to be that way…

            As for your brother, IDK anything about him or you or how you were raised. Perhaps things weren’t as “equal” as you perceive them to be. I know my BIL is an “asshole” (in the lazy, irresponsible, overblown sense of entitlement respect). My husband, OTOH, is as hardworking and responsible as they come. If you ask my husband, his parents let his brother get away with a f&%* of a lot more than they ever let my husband get away with. This happens within families sometimes.

            But Dr. Amy was generalizing about whole generations of women. Not wondering about a specific person. I’m sorry if you don’t understand the difference.

          • Jennifer2

            But even speaking generationally, not about specific people, the folks now whining about “young people today feel so entitled to everything” were once the young people being whined about as “lazy, dirty hippies.” There’s always some trait or some trend with each generation that the previous doesn’t like because each generation grows up in a different environment with different influences than the last. But of course it’s the mothers’ fault when the kids turn out badly.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            That is exactly what I was thinking. People think things are worse now, more wars, more illness, more crime whatever when they are actually better. Something I always think is amusing is that even our public education system is better than it used to be. The problem is that as we learn more that has to be taught and add a larger amount of children to the system it is hard to keep up with the rest of the world and keep control of all those children. Not to mention what we know about learning disabilities and the strain that puts on the budget (rightly so).

            Just to clarify I am not saying there isn’t a problem, but if the kids in the 50s, 60s, or 70s were educated like today I can’t even imagine what we could have accomplished. Anyway, every generation thinks the next is going to hell and remember only the good from days past. I never worry about it.

          • me

            Oh I agree. The hippies are the original “generation entitlement”. Hell, they still are. God forbid anyone talk about making (even sane, reasonable) cuts to social security of medicare. The geezers are “entitled” to it (even when they earn six figures through their investments and retirement and continuing to work while collecting all these entitlements) and won’t let it get touched, despite the fact that 1 in 4 children go hungry and our country is basically bankrupt….

            Yeah, leopards don’t change their spots. (mumble, grumble) dirty hippies

        • Kalacirya

          If the point of parenting is to have productive members of society, then I suppose the parents of severely disabled children should take their children out back and shoot them. Even less disabled children may cost our society more in resources than they will contribute through their labor, in a purely capitalistic sense.

          You have a pretty narrow point of view.

          • me

            I’m not speaking in a purely capitalistic sense. There are other ways of contributing. They may not be as valued in a capitalist society, but that doesn’t mean I personally don’t see the value. But thanks for projecting 😉

          • Kalacirya

            Ah, so I suppose we’re all supposed to magically infer what specifically you meant by “productive” members of society. After all, the point of parenting is to create productive widgets for our society.

            Are they economically productive, which is what I went for. Are they socially productive? Some people are neither, do you look down on those people?

        • Sullivan ThePoop

          It is kind of sanctimommy of you to say that parents are not living up to their responsibility when I have seen multiple children raised in the same household and one or even two might have that sense of entitlement while the others do not. Nothing different was done, so how did they fail in your mind?

          I am not saying that parents never contribute to this mindset, but the problem seems so pervasive these days that parenting alone is probably not the cause.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Since when did successful mothering require children to hold the exact same views as their mother?

      • me

        It doesn’t. But teaching personal responsibility, ethics, and discouraging an overblown sense of entitlement is part of the job description.

    • AllieFoyle

      Well, also… didn’t Dr. Amy leave her career to care for her children, including breastfeeding them? I don’t generally like scrutinizing individual women’s choices, but it’s hard to let this pass in light of the “My generation of women…” stuff.

      I’m not sure you can have it both ways. It rings hollow to me to criticize women who try to find ways to balance motherhood and career when you yourself chose to leave a professional career for full-time parenting. I don’t pass judgement on anyone for doing that, or for choosing to prioritize a career, but I do find it difficult to understand how you can criticize others for struggling with the same conflict that made caring for your children incompatible with continuing your own career.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        The main reason I left clinical practice was that I could not find another part time job after working part time for 7 years. Should I have filed a discrimination complaint against every practice that wouldn’t give me the hours I wanted based on the fact that those hours were “best” for my children?

        • AllieFoyle

          No, but I think it’s a shame, both for you and for society as a whole–which now loses out on your skilled work– that you were in that position at all.

          I’m not suggesting that there are any perfect solutions or that we should all just throw up our hands and expect society to accommodate our every need, but maybe it’s worth examining whether the cost of making working and parenting more compatible might be worthwhile on a number of levels.

          I don’t know the specifics of the case beyond what I read, but the woman in the article was asking for a pretty small amount of accommodation, for, I presume, a limited amount of time (…a few months?). It might have been worthwhile for her employer to have accommodated the request to avoid the costs associated with hiring and training a new employee.

          I have ties to northern Europe and, while I don’t have romantic illusions about their systems being flawless and fair to all, I do have to say that the idea that you are on your own as a mother is a uniquely american one, and I think it’s worth revisiting. Outside the US, it’s not considered an entitled attitude to expect to be able to spend time with your child when he is young and still be allowed to return to your career, or to work reduced or flexible hours.

        • me

          You could have changed careers to something more flexible/family friendly. The point I think Allie was trying to make is that you are criticizing women who stick around in the workplace dealing with these struggles, while you simply dropped out of the workplace altogether.

          I’m a SAHM. I “dropped out” too. I think women should be free to choose what they want to do. There is nothing wrong with being a SAHM or pursuing a career while being a mother. But you write on this high horse as tho you found that perfect balance, but here you are basically admitting that you gave up. Yes, I guess giving up is better than filing a lawsuit, but it doesn’t do anything to improve conditions for those that follow.

          Was this woman being unreasonable? IDK. There’s no harm in asking for accommodations, but employers don’t have to give them to you. Becoming a parent is a lifestyle choice and no one is obligated to accommodate that choice. That being said, maternity leave and labor laws in the US are pretty awful. Staying in and fighting the good fight will help things change a lot faster than what we “drop outs” did…

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            By the same token, Kate Frederick could also have changed careers, right?

          • me

            Of course she could have. I’m not saying what she is doing is right. But it does get a dialogue going. And, in the interest of progress, that is not a bad thing.

          • Amazed

            “Staying in and fighting the good fight will help things change a lot faster than what we “drop outs” did…”

            Hmm, if I were an employer, I would have thought twice about hiring new mothers after Kate Frederick’s actions…

            We do have 2 years maternity leave here and for the first year, it’s paid pretty well. Also, a mother cannot be fired until her child turns 3. As a result, many employers prefer not to hire new mothers who would leave for two years and then they’ll take breaks each time their child is sick, and employers cannot even fire them and they have to find replacement each time mothers are absent.

            Believe me, Kate Frederick isn’t fighting “a good fight”. If anything, she’s increasing prejudices against mothers.

          • AllieFoyle

            Where are you? I hear you on the pitfalls of mandating parental protections, but could you say more about how people in general feel about having generous leave and job protection policies? I’m assuming that if those policies are a significant deterrent to hiring, there must also be a backlash against them?

          • Amazed

            Post-communist Bulgaria. Maternity leave is one of the few things that are well done here. 90 percent of mother’s salary for the first year and the minimal wage for the next one. There are many good things about it – if you make good money, you’ll basically keep getting them for the first year (or the first 9 months, I am not quite sure). It’s great that you don’t have to worry about losing your job. Problems arise mainly with small firms where each worker matters and replacing a mother in maternity or sick leave means losing money, let alone inadequate performance. If you apply in such a firm, your chances are a lot better if your children are not toddlers.

            Actually, I think the situation here might get a lot better if we had more kindergartens. Mothers stay home in droves after the third year because there is no one around to take care of their children. Employers are aware of this fact, as well. Maybe some stimuli for hiring mothers will help.

            And of course, the lack of help applies to the first year, of course. Many young couples live away from their families and a nanny is a hard thing to afford for many of them. Mothers are glad that they can stay home and take care of their children while receiving almost the same money they made before, instead of giving them all for the nanny.

          • auntbea

            Eh. I don’t really know if her request was reasonable. BUT, if she has a legitimate request of her employer then she is not obligated to avoid fighting for it because then it might make her employer view all women as trouble-makers.

          • Amazed

            Of course. I was merely answering Me’s opinion that KF fighting the good fight would help change things for women. It very well might but in the wrong direction.

          • Elizabeth A

            Becoming a parent is a lifestyle choice and no one is obligated to accommodate that choice.

            On the one hand, yes. We try very hard to ensure that if you become a parent, you do so because you chose that freely.

            On the other hand, if we, as a society, want to have doctors and nurses and bus drivers forty years from now, we have to stop behaving as if children are an expensive hobby for the rich.

            I’m not saying this woman is 100% right (although I think asking for a flex arrangement to breastfeed is not, you know, the craziest thing a parent has ever done), but we, as a society, need to look more to the future and do more to support families in raising children.

          • me

            I agree with you. And I also agree that it is a shame that kids are seen as a liability or an inconvenience. Unfortunately that seems to be where we are as a society. So you get women like Dr Amy who think mothers in the workplace should suck it up and deal and anyone who asks for accommodations/changes (especially if they “whine” too loudly or something) is lazy and entitled and thinks she is a “special snowflake” and that her child is her “employer’s responsibility”, yada yada.. My post was really in response to this idea (that is so pervasive among the old timers) that the “new generation” just emerged from spores full grown. She’s knocking an entire generation of women, but HER GENERATION (you know, the one that was so “successful” at combining work and mothering) raised this current generation. Something doesn’t jibe with that logic…

          • MaineJen

            “You could have changed careers.” As if it’s just that easy. Just up and find another job. One that pays what you need it to pay. In this economy.
            A good job and a career you worked hard for, and one that you enjoy, is hard to find. Women shouldn’t have to give up all that they’ve worked for; they should be able to have a baby and then return to work, JUST AS MEN HAVE BEEN DOING forever, with no guilt.
            A lot of things would have to change in this country for that to happen. Paid maternity leave. Fair wages. Free or reasonably affordable daycare. I could go on. The modern workplace has not caught up to the reality that women ARE part of the workforce, they’re a very valuable part, and having a family should no more interrupt a woman’s career than it would a man’s.
            Did this woman go about things in the right way? Hard to say. But she does have us talking. 🙂

          • me

            This economy? You mean 20+ years ago when Dr Amy left medicine? Yes, it was a flippant reply (just change careers). But it is a viable solution. If your chosen career turns out to be not very family friendly, you do have the option of a change. Especially when you are already college educated and married to a successful attorney. As was the good Doc. My guess? Being an MD, she didn’t want to “lower” herself to do anything else. But that’s just speculation. FWIW, I know lots of women who left the industry they started out in to pursue a career in a more family friendly one after having children. It’s not so uncommon as you seem to think.

            At any rate, I totally agree with you – this woman could be viewed as something of a pioneer – unless and until enough women lodge their grievances about the current state of things, nothing will change. Is she right/wrong/indifferent? IDK, but like you said, she got people’s attention. Often that is half the battle.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            It’s a bad idea to guess my intentions when you don’t know me and you are clueless about my life and my choices. It makes you look like a fool.

          • Kadabra Frederick

            Yes, I agree.

    • GuestB

      I just realized that Dr. Amy used the word “mothering”, not “parenting”. According to the dictionary, mothering means “the nurturing of an infant or small child by its mother”. So really, this has nothing to do with parenting (the rearing of children) into adulthood, and everything to do with taking care of small children.

      • me

        And I see it defined as the practice of nurturing and *raising* of a child by a mother. It has everything to do with bringing up children. And what are they “raised” into? Well, adults, of course 😉 Let’s not get bogged down by semantics here. the measure of successful mothering/parenting/fathering/whatever you want to call it, is how your kids turn out when they reach adulthood. If the Doc’s generation was nearly as wonderful as she claims, why did this new generation (in her opinion) turn out so bad? If this new generation sucks, well, the old generation has only themselves to thank.

  • AlisonCummins

    This is why other countries have extended parental leave for both parents. It doesn’t need to be all about the mother.

    The benefits aren’t usually 100% of pay for a year. Where I live in Quebec, biological mothers get 18 weeks at 70% pay; biological fathers get 5 weeks at 70% pay; and both parents get 7 weeks at 70% and 25 at 55% pay to divide among themselves however they want. (Adoptive parents have a separate plan.) If a mother makes more than the maximum insurable $67,500 she would take a bigger hit and may go back to work sooner. Their babies learn to take bottles, either from their fathers or a paid caregiver. Women who make less money and who also make less than the fathers, usually prefer to take the full year.

    We consider this extended parental leave to be a benefit to society as a whole. It’s paid through a public insurance plan. We all pay into it, both men and women, and we can draw from it as needed. We don’t expect individual women to assume the entire burden of accomodating everyone else’s needs and we don’t expect employers to fund paid parental leave out of the goodness of their hearts.

    She doesn’t need accomodations to breastfeed a toddler, but she shouldn’t have to juggle work and a *newborn* either. That might be the law and common practice in the US, but it’s far from absurd for her to complain about it.

    • HolyWowBatman

      I agree… Longer parental leave would help in so many ways, and her employer had the right to refuse her request for extra accommodations. My great grandmother was a single working mom of four in the 1920’s, and before her passing she was so impressed with how far women’s rights have come. I hope our generation can ultimately say the same things to families in 50 years.

  • Carolina

    If all she wanted was one 1/2 hour break while her child was an infant, that seems pretty reasonable. If she wanted multiple 30 minute nurse breaks, that gets harder to accomodate. Really not clear from the article which one she wanted.
    The article makes it clear she was asking while on mat leave, meaning she wanted it for an infant, NOT the 14 month old toddler. I agree the baby would probably learn to take a bottle pretty quickly if he got hungry enough, but let’s not be hyperbolic and act like this is about nursing a toddler.

    I was lucky to have a white collar job, private office, and a locking door when I was pumping the first year. I just locked the door, hooked up the pump, and kept drafting briefs, got on conference calls, etc. Many of the lawyers who had babies in the day care center in our building would often pop over to feed them directly during the day. I occasionally had my nanny bring my daughter to me if they were in the area so we could nurse at the office. It’s not crazy to ask for it.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      But she’s not asking for it. She filing a discrimination complaint arguing that she’s ENTITLED to it. That’s completely different.

      • Elizabeth A

        I’m missing details on the specific case, but there are circumstances in which she might, in fact, have a legitimate complaint.

        How has the employer responded to other employees’ requests for different schedules or flexible work arrangements? Are there other workers who regularly take time out of the work day handle parental or non-parental personal needs or commitments? Is anyone running over to the old folk’s home on their lunch break to make sure Mom takes her medicine, or taking time for a recurring medical need Is the employer’s denial of this request a genuine and equitable application of their usual policies towards employee time?

        My husband works 7:45 to 4:30 so he can get our kids from daycare. I take half a day off every three weeks for chemotherapy, and my employers dock my pay when I’m out of PTO, but they otherwise don’t give me trouble about it. If either of those things are going on in her office, but an extra-long break to breastfeed is not okay, she may have a legitimate discrimination complaint.

        Slate ran an article last week indicating that men are more likely to be granted flex time then women, regardless of the reason for the request. So again – it may be a legit complaint about actual discrimination.

        • Jennifer2

          Also, the Boston Globe article says:

          “Frederick needed to breast-feed: She developed gestational diabetes while pregnant, and her lactation consultant, midwife, and nurses all told her that breast-feeding would be best for her and Devon’s health. She also deals with ongoing issues of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, putting her at risk for post-partum depression — which breast-feeding can help stave off by facilitating mother-baby bonding and releasing endorphins.”

          While I think the GD connection is tenuous, she could have a legitimate claim of disability discrimination on the basis that her employer is legally required to make accommodations for employees with disabilities if those accommodations are necessary for the employee to do their job and are reasonable for the employer.

          • Jennifer2

            Continuing (it stops letting me type long comments when I’m on my phone)….

            I doubt she would be able to get a broad ruling from a court finding that employers must categorically allow longer breaks for nursing or must allow mothers to bring their babies to the workplace to breastfeed. But in this specific case, if she could show that breastfeeding was necessary for her (not just recommended in general) to avoid PPD or worsening symptoms from anxiety and PTSD, and unless the employer can show her request for slightly longer breaks was truly burdensome, then I think she might have a legit claim that her employer discriminated against her on the basis of her disability (something very different from saying that she was discriminated against on the basis of being a woman or a mother or a breastfeeding mother).

          • Jennifer2

            That all being said, I am not surprised the Boston Globe article focuses on all the various (and often overstated) health benefits of breastfeeding and the issues of pumping breaks and children in the workplace. As bad as the media are on reporting about science, they are at least equally bad at reporting on legal issues.

  • Dr Kitty

    Refusing bottles is an option if breast feeding is an alternative option.
    If all nursing is replaced with bottles/syringes/sippy cups the baby will adapt.

    My kid would NEVER take a bottle from me, but happily took EBM in a bottle or cup from grandparents, childminder and dad, once she worked out that it was that or nothing.
    A thirsty/hungry baby without an alternative will eventually take milk whatever way it comes.

    Children don’t belong in the workplace, but if the employer is willing and able to facilitate a trip to a nearby day care or a nursing session in a private room instead of a pumping break of equal duration, then fine.

    If there are good business or common sense reasons why only pumping at work is going to work (employee can’t leave the premises, job requires face to face with public without extended time away from the desk, children are not permitted on the premises) , then indeed, your options are pump at work, quit your job, find a job where your nursing will be accommodated or switch to formula.

  • AlisonCummins

    When I studied Human Nutrition at university in the Eighties we were very anti-bottle. We learned that nine-month-olds should be taught to drink from a cup, not a bottle. Even newborns could be taught to drink from a cup to avoid nipple confusion.

    What’s wrong with teaching a child a new skill?

  • moto_librarian

    I have no issues with extended breastfeeding, but at 14 months, a kid should be able to drink breastmilk out of a sippy cup. This is not an infant who isn’t eating solids. I would also say that if you are planning on going back to work, you need to introduce a bottle fairly early. I have a friend who had problems with her EBF baby not wanting to take a bottle, so the baby was syringe fed when she went back to work until she started drinking from a bottle.

  • Lena

    “She hasn’t been to work for the past year? How old is this baby anyway? Actually, he’s not a baby. He’s a 14 month old toddler.”

    I almost stopped reading at that point. 14 months old? She’s not breastfeeding for him, she’s doing it for herself. I might not disagree with making some accommodations to nurse an infant depending on the circumstances, but a toddler? GTFO with that nonsense.

    • Carolina

      “She’s not breastfeeding for him, she’s doing it for herself.” Could we drop this tried statement about extended breastfeeding, please? I don’t doubt there are some nuts who need to validation, but I can’t believe the majority of us are like that. I would have loved for my baby to wean herself at a year. She didn’t seem to want to, and I didn’t mind accomodating her. She nursed nights/mornings until over 2.5 years. I didn’t hate it, but I would have liked having my body back, being able to go back on certain meds, etc. It most assuredly was an act of love for her to let her keep doing something she enjoyed.

      • Lena

        But it’s not necessary. That’s my point. If you and your toddler like nursing, great, but it’s completely unreasonable to ask for any accommodations when your child is that age. (I know now that’s a moot point wrt the original topic.) You don’t get to pull the “best for my child” card, even if breastfeeding actually were that much better than formula for infants.

        And another thing–I know I came off as insulting, but personally, I see nothing wrong with “selfishness,” for lack of a better word. “Doing it for herself,” is a perfectly legitimate reason to do extended breastfeeding, as far as I am concerned. It’s just not a good reason to ask for special treatment at work.

    • Jennifer2

      She may not have been back to work for a year at this point, but her son was an infant when her maternity leave ended. Time does pass and babies get older while an EEOC complaint and lawsuit are pending.

  • Read the Original

    Looking back at the original Boston Globe article, what did the mother aske for? “A half-hour, rather than a 15-minute break, so she could zip over to the day-care center less than a two-minute drive from her office to breast-feed her new baby boy….. time she offered to make up by staying later” That sounds like a reasonable request to me.

    Not all breast-fed babies take bottles! If there is a reasonable way for a women to visit her child’s day care, have a babysitter bring the baby to work, or have an on-site daycare so that I woman can breast-feed, why not accommodate that? Why shouldn’t breast feeeding directly (if necessary) have the same legal protection as pumping.

    I personally struggled for months to try to get my daughter to take a bottle. I could pump milk at work, but it was wasted because my daughter wouldn’t drink it from a bottle.

    A lot of the statement in the Boston Globe article do overstate the importance of breast feeding. However, the underlying request that prompted the issue seems reasonable.

    • PrimaryCareDoc

      This doesn’t make any sense. When my kids were infants, they ate every 2 to 3 hours. Was she going to take off 45 minutes every 3 hours to go and breastfeed her baby?

      Also, my first son wouldn’t take a bottle at first either. But when I went back to work, he learned pretty quickly.

      I find the mom’s story hard to believe.

      • Read the Original

        I am glad your baby learned to take a bottle quickly, but that isn’t true for everyone.

        Two breaks could be enough to get through a workday if you do the math. Nurse 8:30 before work. Nurse break at 11:30. Nurse break at 2:30. Nurse after work at 5:30. The article is not specific about how many breaks she requested.

        • Clarissa Darling

          That schedule may sound reasonable on first glance but, now say your boss comes to you at 2:15 and says “Bad news, I’ve gotten word that those reports on project X are off by millions because of a systems error, you’ve got to pull the new data, reconfigure the reports and complete a summary showing how the new numbers will affect the project. I’m meeting our largest client for dinner at 5:30 and they expect a full update on project X. This is top priority and no one leaves the office till it’s complete.” Or how about if your boss schedules a mandatory department meeting at such and such a day at 2:30 because that’s the only time that works for everyone else’s schedule during the next 3 months. Whether or not any employee’s request is reasonable is going to depend on the employer. I’m salaried so, in some sense I have the flexibility to decide when to take breaks and my son’s daycare is only going to
          be 5 minutes from my work. I can certainly decide to use my break time to go and see my son if I want. But, regardless of whether I’m visiting my son or using my break time to go shopping, I’m expected to schedule my breaks around my employer’s needs and not the other way around. If a meeting or a deadline comes up (which happens often) during the time I would ideally want to take my break there is
          just no way around it.

        • Sarah, PharmD

          They will get about 6 productive hours out of her with that schedule.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      No, it’s not reasonable because the justification is not reasonable. Because it’s “good for my baby” is not a reasonable justification in the workplace.

      Moreover, as any working woman who makes going back to work a priority can tell you, if you want your baby to take a bottle when you return to work you have to introduce the bottle early. It is just that simple.

      • Read the Original

        It’s not that simple for everyone. I know introduced a bottle at 3 weeks, and my daughter took at it first, but then suddenly started refusing it at 6 weeks. I tried everything under the sun to get her to take a bottle. It’s not always simple.

        If you are going to argue “No, it’s not reasonable because the justification is not reasonable. Because it’s “good for my baby” is not a reasonable justification in the workplace”, then why should workplaces accommodate pumping? Why not say if you want to go back to work, don’t breast feed?

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          You gave your daughter several bottles a week and then suddenly at 6 weeks she would not longer take it?

          • auntbea

            Definitely happened to us, and some other families we know, at about ten weeks.

          • me

            Happened to me too. With my third child I wanted to be able to give her bottles and at first it worked great. Then around 6 weeks she just refused. Fortunately when she got a bit older we were able to introduce a sippy cup without issue, but there was a time that she would adamantly refuse (read: scream bloody murder) anything other than the breast.

          • Read the Original

            Yes, but we missed one 4 day window because my husband was on a business trip and she wouldn’t take one from me. After that she never took one nicely again.

            If I had been working full time, I think she would have given in, but since I only was away 5 hours at a time, she preferred to go hungry.

          • Bambi Chapman

            Happened to us too. She had a bottle a week, at least, from birth and suddenly began refusing around 6/8 weeks.

        • Young CC Prof

          My younger brother wouldn’t take a bottle. He took it when he was a newborn, then a few weeks later Mom went out for the day, expecting Dad to feed him.

          It did not go well, and I clearly remember the hours and hours of screaming until Mom finally got back.

          I suppose we’ll have to do a bottle every few days, if I expect my baby to take one consistently.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Definitely.

      • auntbea

        Do you believe that demanding time to pump is reasonable? Is that the same justification or a different one?

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          You don’t demand time to pump. You pump on your break.

          • auntbea

            Well, but a lot of people who mightn’t otherwise get breaks are legally required to have them to pump. Ergo, demanding work time to pump.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Who doesn’t get legally mandated breaks?

          • Antigonos CNM

            You’re in the US, Dr. Amy. Here, I have NEVER had any of my legally-entitled breaks, including meal breaks, for all the years I’ve worked in both hospitals and clinics. Never enough staff, nowhere to go. At my last job I had to eat at my desk, with patients in the room and while answering the telephone — it sometimes took me 3 hours to consume one sandwich. And I’ve worked in just about all the hospitals in Jerusalem and two in northern Israel. But then, as you have probably experienced, the health industry itself is quite backward towards its own employees [I’ve even been told to report to work when I had a fever]

            As far as the business of breastfeeding at work, I doubt it could really be accomplished in the “half hour” the woman claims [just as homebirth transfers take longer than estimated]. Getting to her car, the actual driving, the actual nursing, etc. repeated probably several times during a normal 8 hour workday would probably come out to be closer to a total of 2 hours away from her desk, than half an hour.

          • auntbea

            Federal law does not mandate breaks for either lunch or rest, but many states do. Often the break is 10 minutes for every four hours worked. On the other hand, nursing mothers must get breaks of reasonable pumping time “as frequently as needed.” http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.htm
            http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/faq.htm

          • GuestB

            “Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship.”
            If you work for a small company you’re on your own.

          • auntbea

            Edit: Nevermind, misunderstood this comment.

          • Clarissa Darling

            Nursing mothers subject to FLSA can have reasonable pumping time but, employers are not required to pay them for it. Just curious, was the woman in the article offering to take a pay cut in order to get time to nurse?

          • auntbea

            No idea. As shaky as her case may be, I don’t think she would have *any* legal leg to stand on if she were demanding paid breaks, though.

          • Carolina

            I don’t think I do. I’m an exempt professional employee. I take what breaks I want, but I don’t think they are mandated.

          • me

            People in Arizona. Or any other “right to work” state. Breaks are not legally required in many places. Most employers give them anyway, but they don’t *have* to.

            Welcome to the world of us blue collar folk 😉

          • Jessica

            In my state, executive, administrative and professional employees are exempt from the laws mandating meal and break periods. If you’re exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA, the legally mandated breaks to express breastmilk don’t apply to you.

    • Lena

      Her child is 14 months old. It’s is completely unreasonable to ask for time off work to nurse him.

      • Read the Original

        If you look at the original article, the child is 14 months now, but was a newborn when she make her original request.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Read the Original,

      Please use your original screen name, Hava NaturalMama.

    • AllieFoyle

      I’m inclined to agree with you to an extent. I think it has to do with how society decides it values aspects of parenting in relation to paid professional work. I don’t think the answer is clear cut yet here. Other countries seem to value the physical aspects of parenting more on a societal level and are willing to subsidize it to an extent that we in the US consider a luxury. We consider it enormously galling that this woman wants an exception granted from the status quo, but in other places the flexibility to do what she’s asking would be a non-issue.

    • multimom

      I actually agree with you that it was a reasonable request. Worth a shot. I also think that it was reasonable for her employer to say no, once you start modifying schedules for one person…….

      Her reaction after was not reasonable. The world doesn’t revolve around her baby, she had to figure out how to balance everything. Not her employer. I’ve balanced breastfeeding newborns and employment. It’s not easy, but I was sure as hell not going to attention to the fact. Because I wanted to be seen as an equal, not demanding special benefits because I was lactating. Something just about every female mammal does.

    • Life Tip

      Multiple half hour breaks during the day is probably an unreasonable request. 15 minute breaks are easy to work around. 30 minutes of being unavailable plus preparing to leave and then getting re-situated back in the office would reduce productivity and be a pain for co-workers to work around. Should everyone re-arrange meetings around her breaks? Should everyone have to routinely extend their work day to accommodate when she’s available?

      No…for most people, multiple 30 minute breaks throughout the day is not reasonable.

  • PoopDoc

    If you make it your priority to work, then yes you have to sacrifice certain aspects of motherhood. If you make motherhood your #1 priority, then you need to make sacrifices re: work. You cannot do it all to the max. As I’m fond of telling everyone who wants piece of me – I can only be in so many places at once.

  • Emma

    It’s so true about modern women’s competitive child-rearing and how it seems to trump workplace needs- imho it’s almost a bit backward and anti-feminist that a woman’s value is so deeply based upon her mothering skills that she will expect all these unpractical adjustments in the workplace. The sad thing is I do know from friends who work in business leadership roles say that they honestly are less willingly to offer high-level promotions to females, precisely because of the excessive ‘child-friendly’ demands of a lot of modern women 🙁

    • AlisonCummins

      Not “almost a bit.” It is.

      • Antigonos CNM

        In Israel, which has anti-discrimination laws, a considerable number of ultra-Orthodox women have told me how difficult it is to get a job, and the unspoken reason is that bosses are unwilling to hire women who will be on maternity leave every 2 years or less for their fertile years. Maternity benefits are quite generous here [3 months paid leave — in fact, I think it’s actually more now — and up to a year unpaid leave]. If you do the math, that means they are hiring someone who will be absent more than half the time and by law, the employer must keep her job open for her.

        It makes more sense to hire a non-religious woman, who is likely to have a total of 3 children rather than 8.

    • AllieFoyle

      How fair is it to lay it on the shoulders of women, really? Is it competitive child-rearing or trying to do the best you can, given the information that you have? Aside from this blog, breastfeeding dogma is strong and pervasive, with the force of the public health and medical communities promoting it on a large scale.

  • Are you nuts

    This is so frustrating to me. We are fortunate to live in a time where women have nearly infinite options. You want to be a stay at home mom? Great. You want to be a doctor/engineer/banker? Great. You want to work part time? Great. You want to job share? Great.
    But for too many women my age (I’m 30), that’s not good enough. They want equal pay and status of men, all while working significantly less than men and with a great deal more employer-provided flexibility than men. On what planet is that fair??
    I’m not saying we don’t have miles to go in terms of gender equality. We do. But let’s save some of the arrows in our quiver for things that actually matter, and not jeopardize the good work that the women before us have done by making ridiculous requests.
    You can be a CEO. You can breastfeed your child until they’re 5. Both are perfectly reasonable choices. But, you can’t reasonably expect to do both.

    • Amy M

      I’d say you can’t reasonably expect to do both at the same time. You could breastfeed your child until age 5 and then when your child is older, focus on your career so you can work towards CEO. You won’t make CEO by 40, but you could still get it before retirement age.

      Generally, I agree though. Gender equality does not equal “women get special concessions if they are parents.” Men never did, of course because their wives were at home doing the parenting. I think if both parents are working, then both parents could be contributing to the parenting as equally as possible as well, btw. To me, gender equality means that both men and women should have equal opportunities in the working world, as well as being offered equal parenting leave like in some European countries. Stay-at-home Dads are increasing in number in the US, it seems largely due to the recent poor economy, but there is a long way to go before it is widely accepted.

    • auntbea

      Well, except that a man CAN be a CEO and have a five-year-old breastfed child, if he thought that was important, because he gets to outsource one of those jobs in a way a woman cannot. It is true that most people, men and women, who are highly productive in their jobs must at least sometimes put career over children. But if society is to continue, some people also have to put children over career. And, in our society, that is still women. So unless both of those jobs start paying, woman are bearing the cost of attempting to balance both roles.

      The solutions are: 1) to pay women the same for less work at work, 2) to require men to share the child-rearing so that women can put in equal time for their equal pay or 3) eliminate jobs that require more than 40 hours a week, so that everyone gets to work and be a more attentive parent. Only one of those is in any way plausible.

      • AllieFoyle

        You have the essence of the conflict there: someone has to do the time-consuming tasks involved in parenting at the expense of career, and for a variety of reasons, including mammalian biology, it usually falls to the woman.

        I think the increase in women’s career possibilities has also brought a different set of challenges. There’s intense pressure, now that the playing field has been leveled somewhat, to succeed in a professional career, but success there is often at odds with the requirements for rearing children, or at least for doing it up to a certain standard. You’re expected to be a go-getter in the professional world, but you also have a whole host of studies and experts that tell you every day about the value of things like breastfeeding and family dinners and an hour of daily physical exercise and so on. It’s like being henpecked constantly with demands that you can’t possibly meet without failing at other obligations.

        I’m not sure I’d encourage any daughters to have children. There is so much pressure to do things like breastfeed and provide enriching and stimulating activities and constant supervision and 100% safety from a whole host of dangers, but very little of that action is valued in any meaningful way. I hear people say things like “you can be a CEO or SAHM, but not both” and pretend that they are equally valid choices, I just recoil. They aren’t. They aren’t respected the same way; they don’t lead to similar levels of economic security; they don’t provide the same intellectual and personal stimulation and satisfaction; and they certainly aren’t compensated the same.

        If you believe that the time and work involved in parenting, including breastfeeding, is valueless, then I guess it’s simple enough. But for everyone else, balancing parenting and work involves many unhappy compromises. I think many of those are unnecessary and ultimately wasteful. A little flexibility that allows parents to maintain a professional career while taking a moderate amount of leave, or some provision for temporary part-time work or modified hours would allow many people to remain in the workforce while meeting the needs of their families.

        • Guestll

          I wish I could like this a hundred times.

      • Are you nuts

        Key words being, “if society is to continue.” For society to continue, women must be able to have babies (and be able to take time off to have the babies). This is one of the important issues we should be focusing on: getting mandatory paid maternity leave in the US. For society to continue, women must be able to feed their babies, which I think the laws currently accomodate by allowing women to take breaks to pump at work. For society to continue, women must be able to take care of their babies, or hire someone to take care of them. This is another issue we should be working on. It’s terrible when a low-income mom has to quit her job because she can’t afford childcare.
        Breastfeeding for years is a luxury. Leaving the office during the day for 30 minutes, several times a day, is a luxury. Let’s focus on the big issues here of a reasonably long paid maternity leave and affordable childcare before we start making unreasonable requests of our employers.

        • auntbea

          I’m not talking about this particular situation. I am responding to your comment that [Women] “want equal pay and status of men, all while working significantly
          less than men and with a great deal more employer-provided flexibility
          than men. On what planet is that fair??”

          I fail to see how granting longer maternity leave and mandating pump breaks do not constitute “working less” and “demanding more flexibility.” And I fail to see how not providing them does anything but punish women for performing a necessary task.

    • stacey

      “They want equal pay and status of men, all while working significantly less than men and with a great deal more employer-provided flexibility than men. On what planet is that fair??”

      Puh-leez. First off, I don’t know what world YOU live in, but THIS is the world where women make 77 cents for every $1 a man makes, work as much, and have no more privilege or flexibility in the workforce (and often have less, plus all kinds of other issues like glass ceiling, sexual harassment, etc.) PEOPLE deserve the pay and status for what they put in, but it is not women that are getting these things handed to them.
      The idea that there are pregnant women everywhere taking advantage of employers and doing so much less than men is something so stupid I would think you were an MRA.

      It is a shame that parenting is not considered worthwhile. All the sacrifice, and work, a mom (or dad) makes is a benefit to the entire society.

      • Are you nuts

        Nope, not a mens rights activist. I had to look that acronym up because I had never heard it before. The woman in this article threatened legal action because her employer wouldn’t let her leave the office several times a day. If an employer fears litigation for not allowing an employee to skip work every single day, they will be loath to hire women of child-bearing years, and rightfully so.

        The 77 cents on the dollar figure is for all employees, across all professions and all seniority, not women vs. men in the same profession. When you look at profession-specific numbers, they are much tighter, but still not one for one. We do still have a long way to go! But the answer is not making unreasonable demands of our employers. Woman like the subject of Dr. Amy’s post make it harder for the rest of us.

  • GuestB

    “My generation of women, and the generation that came before me, struggled mightily to convince professional schools, employers and colleagues that women are every bit as capable and every bit as responsible as male employees. We managed to do so AND successfully mother our children.”
    This.
    Thank you, Dr. Amy.

    • AlisonCummins

      Not everyone should have to be superwoman. That’s a high bar. Where do ordinary women fit into this?