Breastfeeding in Parliament is defeat for women, not a victory.

Businesswoman with baby and PC

Australia’s Parliament recently voted to allow female representatives to breastfeed in the chamber. Lactivists are hailing it as a victory. It’s not; it is, paradoxically, a defeat.

Why? It undercuts the professionalism of women and it is a poor exchange for what they really need: generous maternity leave.

Women have struggled for decades to be taken seriously as professionals; breastfeeding at work, while actually working, is unprofessional.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#f27591″ class=”” size=””]Allowing women to breastfeed at work and therefore skip maternity leave is like allowing workers to eat at their desks and therefore skip a lunch break.[/pullquote]

When my children were babies, my husband occasionally brought them to the hospital to eat when I was available. I nursed them in the privacy of the on call room. I loved seeing them and nursing a baby is so much more enjoyable than pumping.

BUT … I never took my babies into patient rooms; I never brought them to the emergency room and nursed them while performing a D&C for miscarriage; I never had a baby nursing under my surgical gown when performing a hysterectomy or a C-section. It wouldn’t have been not merely unprofessional (although it would indeed have been unprofessional), it would have been disrespectful to patients. They deserved my full, undivided attention whether I was operating on them, examining them or merely talking to them.

I would be appalled if engaged a lawyer and she nursed her baby during a consultation, during a deposition, while arguing with opposing counsel or in court in the middle of a case.

I would be appalled if got on an airplane and the pilot were nursing her baby during my plane flight or even (perhaps especially) if the pilot were nursing while going through pre-flight safety checks.

I can’t think of a single professional whose performance would be enhanced by breastfeeding a child while working.

When Australian representatives are in the Parliament chamber, they are working. They are considering legislation, arguing with colleagues, engaged in procedural maneuvers, supposedly giving their full attention to the people’s business. Bringing a baby into the chamber to feed it is unprofessional. It deprives the people of a legislator who is fully engaged with the matter at hand and it deprives babies of mothers who are fully engaged with them.

Don’t tell me that babies need to eat. Adults need to eat, too, but not in the operating room, while court is in session, or in the cockpit in the midst of actively flying the plane. And while it might not be dangerous to eat while examining a patient, or in a client consultation, or during a job interview, it would be disrespectful.

Moreover, breastfeeding at work isn’t a matter of business accommodating mothers, which would be a victory; it’s all about mothers (and babies) accommodating business.

In the past two decades, the line between work and home has been blurred. Sure, in 1996 someone from work could call you at home to consult on a problem, but when you were out of the workplace, you were generally considered unavailable. Computers, smart phones, and email have changed all that. Work has invaded every moment of life. Unless you are out of the range of a satellite phone, you can always be contacted; your coworkers can always send you documents to peruse; your boss can always expect you to finish that report ASAP and send it immediately even if it’s 2 AM. Work has invaded the home and since there are only a limited number of hours each day, it has cut into family interactions. When my father came home from work, I only had to share him with my mother and sports on TV. When today’s parents of young children come home from work, their children often have to continue to share them with work even when they are physically present.

Allowing breastfeeding in the workplace is a cheap substitute for what women and babies really need: generous maternity leave.

In my view, the feminist ideal would be recognition that women are valuable as mothers and valuable as professionals and workers. The feminist ideal is NOT forcing women to bring mothering into the workplace where it will compromise both job performance and mothering.

Allowing women to breastfeed at work and therefore skip maternity leave is like allowing workers to eat at their desks and therefore skip a lunch break. It’s not a victory; it’s a defeat.

120 Responses to “Breastfeeding in Parliament is defeat for women, not a victory.”

  1. Dave Burke
    March 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    Women in Australia already have a generous maternity leave scheme. The women who take their babies to Parliament are those who choose to do so; they’re not skipping their maternity leave, they’re taking it and then returning to work with a baby.

  2. Manabanana
    February 4, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    “BUT … I never took my babies into patient rooms; I never brought them to the emergency room and nursed them while performing a D&C for miscarriage; I never had a baby nursing under my surgical gown when performing a hysterectomy or a C-section. It wouldn’t have been not merely unprofessional (although it would indeed have been unprofessional), it would have been disrespectful to patients. They deserved my full, undivided attention whether I was operating on them, examining them…..”

    As I read this I was thinking about all the CPMs who bring their breastfeeding babies AND TODDLERS with them to home births.

    And how deplorably unprofessional this is.

    Yet another example of how homebirth midwifery is all about the MIDWIFE.

  3. Amy
    February 3, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    As someone who often finds myself working through my lunch break, I think your last line NAILS it.

  4. Mishimoo
    February 3, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    Kind of off topic, but a new teat is about to be launched after a successful trial. It reportedly fits the baby’s mouth better and has a smoother flow, making feeding sick babies easier.

  5. BeatriceC
    February 3, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    Completely and utterly off topic: This is the baby I’m trying to bring home right now. MrC and I are in negotiations.

    • Mishimoo
      February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

      Oh beautiful!!

      • BeatriceC
        February 3, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

        He’s 8 months old and extremely friendly. We have a very lonely empty parrot cage downstairs that really needs to be brought upstairs and given an occupant.

        Edited to Add: Nothing has happened to the Evil Attack Parrot ™. We just have a second large parrot cage.

        • Charybdis
          February 3, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

          So you’ll have two Evil Attack Parrots ™? ‘Cause you know the Evil one will show the new one all the tricks.

          • BeatriceC
            February 3, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

            We’ve thought of that, but Macaws have completely different personalities than Amazons do. Amazons are notoriously one person birds. The Evil One is actually extremely affectionate and a wonderful pet to MrC. Macaws tend to be more family friendly birds as long as they’re raised with the attention they need. If we get him, we plan on starting them out in two different rooms to help the Evil Attack Parrot ™ adjust.

    • Sue
      February 3, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

      Do strangers’ votes count? I vote YES.

    • Gatita
      February 4, 2016 at 11:35 am #


      • BeatriceC
        February 4, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

        Don’t get jealous just yet. We are just considering buying him. Parrots are not cheap. This one is $1600. We do have an appropriate cage, so we don’t have to worry about spending another $800 on a cage, but we’d still need to buy a few hundred bucks on toys, perches and other accessories. We need to spend more time visiting him and talk some more to his breeder before we take the plunge.

    • MaineJen
      February 4, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      OMG that is a beautiful baby!!

  6. Amy Tuteur, MD
    February 3, 2016 at 7:08 pm #


    • fiftyfifty1
      February 3, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

      ETA: fixed

    • Who?
      February 3, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

      I see it as a positive. One lurker decides to look you up, arrives all outraged and leaves with something to think about.

      If these people were just a little less self-absorbed, they would stop drawing attention to your work.

    • Roadstergal
      February 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

      Ironic, considering it’s the homebirth midwives who consider babies not breathing to be due to one’s lack of faith.

      • BeatriceC
        February 3, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

        I truly regret that I can only upvote this once. That was brilliant.

    • namaste863
      February 3, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

      Congratulations, Dr. Tuteur! Darth Vader is by far the coolest character in the franchise.

    • Rachele Willoughby
      February 4, 2016 at 12:41 am #

      You’re going to restore balance to the Force?

    • demodocus
      February 4, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Are you seeing a doctor for that heavy breathing?

    • OttawaAlison
      February 4, 2016 at 11:16 am #

      I would be worried if they had said you were Kylo Ren.

  7. Who?
    February 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    This MP had access to, and I understand availed herself of, at least 18 weeks of maternity leave.

    This entire thing is an attempt to improve the standing of the incumbent federal government with the wimmin of Australia, who as we know are a homogeneous group, who all think breastfeeding at work is awesome, because that’s a thing wimmin would think, what with most of them having breasts, and many of them having jobs. Isn’t it?

    It’s a storm in a teacup. Many MPs have had babies over the years, and this is the first one who wanted to be able to breastfeed during the short number of hours her bottom is required on the seat when parliament is sitting. The fact that she is a member of the right wing of a very reactionary party, which has a particular problem in its communication with women, probably has nothing to do with it. That, btw, was sarcasm.

    The thing to get exercised about is using the baby as a prop-they also dragged her out to be photgraphed with all the other women in Cabinet when her mother was promoted, and while there might be a photo of the new Cabinet without the baby in it, not sure I’ve seen it. And I don’t recall seeing a photo of dad, either.

    • Sue
      February 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      Yep – I’m with you here.

      Ironically, the House is almost always empty, with members watching on screen from their offices. Those offices can provide privacy for BFing and/or pumping.

      Having said that, more women members would be great – BFing or not.

      • Who?
        February 3, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

        They are called if they are needed for a vote. Presumably Dad/nanny is hanging out in the office, or just outside the Chamber, ready to scoop up the baby if need be.

        Interestingly, video cameras are only allowed to be trained on a Member in the Chamber if that member is on their feet: so we the public don’t see the breastfeeding action anyway. Which is why we missed out on live action shots of the former incumbent and his smokin’ sidekick grinding their over-whitened teeth, when they finally got back to work after their disappointment.

        Amen to more women members, though why anyone would want the job beats me. We have a woman premier, deputy premier and a number of female cabinet ministers up here in Sunny Q and last I checked we’re muddling along fine. At least the media seems to have stopped the personal remarks re appearance/relationships/relationship history of women Members which we were getting constantly not so long ago.

        • February 4, 2016 at 5:21 am #

          I am convinced the reason that relatively few women go into politics is that we are much too intelligent to want to.

          • Who?
            February 4, 2016 at 7:48 am #

            These days you’d be nuts-who needs the exposure, the hassle, the morons like the guys on the zika post with their casual sexism and tiny brains.

          • Roadstergal
            February 4, 2016 at 11:03 am #

            Regardless of whether you’re pro- or anti-Clinton, the amount of flak she gets for what she wears, the appearance of her face, how fake or genuine her smile or laugh is, etc etc – tells you a lot about how women get treated in politics.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            February 4, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

            And that sad thing is a lot of it comes from other women.

            I’m genuinely looking forward to the day women give up their attempts to sabotogue each other in the work place because women moving up into senior positions won’t be something to sabotogue another woman over since it’s still such a rare thing for a woman to be in senior managment. It’ll be just as normal as a man getting put into a new position.

            Or for society to drop the “women managers -must- be nurturing!” crap. What does that even mean anyways? Tuck your employees into their desks in the morning? Let them get away with murder while giving them a disappointed look instead of addressing the problem head on because being direct is “bitchy” and “bossy?”

          • Madtowngirl
            February 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

            A-freaking-men. Women are so awful to each other in the workplace, and in general. I mean, just look at the mommy wars. It’s like tearing each other down somehow makes them better moms.

      • Sarah
        February 4, 2016 at 4:44 am #

        If it’s anything like the British Parliament, the chamber would provide a nice quiet spot for a feed the vast majority of the time. Less likely to get bothered there than in your office!

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        February 4, 2016 at 9:26 am #

        On the subject of more women in federal government positions, in the US during the great snowstorm of 2016, the only members of Congress to actually make it to work were women. The guys all stayed home. I guess we know who will be running the place when global warming gets to the point that they’ll be swimming to work.

  8. SarahSD
    February 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Certain jobs, and certain parts of most jobs would certainly be incompatible with breastfeeding, but I’m not sure that this is the case for this part of this job. I’m not sure that allowing for flexibility around breastfeeding (or infant feeding generally) in compatible work situations and generous maternity leave must be mutually exclusive.

    • Azuran
      February 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

      My question: Why is that baby even there? What happens to the baby in between feeding? Do they have an on site day care? In such case, women could totally be allowed breastfeed it during her breaks (just like pumping breaks). But not while working. Beside babies cry and will cause distraction not only to the mother but to everyone around.

      • Who?
        February 3, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

        This is the gorgeous icing on the cake of privilege-her nanny, or her not-in-paid-employment-parent takes her: they all travel from the constituency (where their family home is) to Canberra to stay in heavily tax payer subsidisided accommodation.

        I get bringing the family to Canberra if you can-why wouldn’t you-but feeding in the chamber is entirely inappropriate.

        Let’s see what happens when a new dad brings in a bottle fed baby.

      • Bugsy
        February 4, 2016 at 10:41 am #

        That, and with the case of oversupply issues like mine, I can’t imagine how the sight of milk spurting out of a breast wouldn’t be a distraction in a working environment. It’s bad enough when it happens when I’m nursing my little guy in the doctor’s waiting room.

  9. Inmara
    February 3, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    Lactivists everywhere: “Australian members of Parliament are willing to breastfeed while at work, so what’s YOUR excuse for not breastfeeding?”

    • Sarah
      February 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      I’d reply that in the unlikely event I’m ever elected to the Australian Parliament, I promise to lactate furiously throughout.

      • Who?
        February 3, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

        Is that a campaign promise? In certain electorates you’d be in on that one alone.

        But you’d also have to be furiously anti-vax, or, as the cool kids put it, pro vax choice.

        • Sarah
          February 4, 2016 at 4:17 am #

          And probably Australian too, or at least have been there. Damn. So near and yet so far.

        • Sue
          February 4, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

          Yep – pro-vax choice is the new black.

    • Azuran
      February 3, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

      I want to be taken seriously as a female professional.
      How can I expect to be considered as valuable, reliable and professional as a man if I’m bringing a baby to work and breastfeeding it while working.

    • MaineJen
      February 3, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

      …I work with biohazardous body fluids and blood. I also wear a lab coat while working. Soooooooooo yeah.

    • Roadstergal
      February 3, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

      Well, I already cry and fall in love at work, so what’s a little suckling? #TimHunt

  10. nata
    February 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    I remember a huge upheaval in my home country when a female mp nursed her infant in parliament, not during the sessions, but a the opening ceremony. Nothing was seen, very modestly, but it was in the news for the next 6 mos. Just for the fact of it. I am happy it wouldn’t happen in Australia 🙂

  11. Liz Leyden
    February 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    Don’t Australian women already get generous maternity leave?

    My babies were formula-fed, but pumping at work would not have worked for me. I’m a private duty nurse, caring for vent-dependent adults in their homes. I would have had a private place to pump and store milk, but I also have to respond to alarms, which can happen any time. I’ve had to deal with vent failures and power outages. If something bad happened to my client due to a delayed response, I don’t think the state board of nursing would be satisfied if I said “I’m sorry the client died, but I was pumping.”

    Slate’s advice columnist tackled this problem over the summer. The letter was about a co-worker who pumped at her desk, in an open-plan office, several times a day. She refused to go to the designated pumping room because it was inconvenient. I was surprised by the number of commenters who thought the writer was the problem. Personally, I think the real problem was the open-plan office.

    • Inmara
      February 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

      MPs are not the same as paid workforce in that they are elected for a set period of time and there won’t be a re-run for woman who (most probably accidentaly) gets pregnant while being a representative. I’m indifferent about this particular decision but Dr. Amy is spot on about such policies accommodating businesses and not mothers.

    • Who?
      February 3, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      She did have maternity leave-it’s arisen because the member has been promoted and so has more responsibilities, and needs to be more visible. The baby isn’t a dot either, well over 6 months, so it’s hardly the end of the world if she had a bottle or a snack while mum is working.

  12. Angharad
    February 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Maybe I’m biased because I know lots of mothers and a few fathers who work from home and keep an eye on their children at the same time without suffering in the quality of their work, but I don’t see an issue with allowing especially tiny babies who are immobile in an office setting. Obviously there are some situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate (such as healthcare workers) but I think it’s more a cultural norm to keep babies out of the office than anything else.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      February 3, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

      I imagine that one issue might be the noise factor. A lot of people have difficulty focusing if there’s something howling incessantly near them. DD, for example, would have been an utter nightmare in an office: until she was more mobile, she pretty much cried nonstop unless I was walking around with her. Not sitting with her: walking around with her. I wouldn’t have gotten any work done, and the noise, in my pre-baby job (insurance–lots of customer contact via the phone) would have been pretty rough on all involved. Of course, not all babies are so *ahem* opinionated as she was, but how do you determine which babies are and aren’t okay in an office?

      • Inmara
        February 3, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

        And then there are germs. I suspect that in a workplace where people are not able to take decent maternity leave many are not willing to take sick days either. Who would want to expose tiny baby to whatever microbes colleagues are bringing in?

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          February 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

          No kidding. I remember one place I worked that gave its employees all of three sick days a year, so there was one manager with pneumonia and a 103-degree fever staggering around the building for a couple of weeks and hacking all over the place. Just what I want my newborn exposed to, I *don’t* think.

      • Angharad
        February 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

        It depends on the baby (and the office). I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that if there is little/no customer contact on the phone or in person and the baby doesn’t interfere with your or your coworkers’ work, you can bring them. I probably still wouldn’t, but it doesn’t bother me if an office says that employees can, using their best judgment, have their baby with them.

        • Joy
          February 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

          Except there are going to be people who feel that their baby is an angel who isn’t disturbing other people, but in reality is. Then it turns into an HR nightmare.

      • CharlotteB
        February 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm #

        I think it could depend on your office-mates as well. I *can’t* do work when my kid is awake, even if he’s playing quietly. It’s not just about the mom and baby, it’s also about the level of distraction caused by the baby.

        Plus, what do you do if the baby has a bad day? Then you’re really stuck because you don’t have childcare in place, you’re distracted, baby isn’t happy…there’s a reason babies aren’t usually brought to work.

        It’s upsetting. We are supposed to give birth like goddesses with no pain relief, do it in our own home so we can sleep in our own bed (and clean our own toilets and make our own dinner), breastfeed on-demand 24/7 (with not a drop of formula no matter how tired/sore we are), not get help for our PPD (because meditation and love)—NOW we have to take our baby to work??? And be productive??? No. Just no.

        • Who?
          February 3, 2016 at 5:56 pm #


          I almost signed it so I could upvote.

          The hoops for women are just getting higher and more frequent. The dads are disappearing in this.

          • CharlotteB
            February 3, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

            I don’t want to post because I don’t want to post somebody else’s photos, but some homebirth photographs appeared in my facebook feed. I swear to God, the pictures of the mom in labor looked like boudoir photos. There was glamourous/sexy lingerie, full face of makeup (with what looked like fake eyelashes!), a perfect-looking house…

            I’m not against those things, obviously, but seriously? Now I “have” to look cute during labor?

            And don’t get me started on dads.

          • BeatriceC
            February 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

            Oh, hell. I barely look presentable today, on a normal weekday as a parent of teens.

          • Who?
            February 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

            It’s just sad.

            I was really irritated by the photos of Caitlin Jenner in her posh undies: is this the standard now for women in their sixties?

            Here in Oz a former Brigadier has gone through gender reassignment and is such a great role model, and her undies are not at all in evidence.

          • Madtowngirl
            February 4, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

            I had some boudoir maternity pictures show up on my feed. Now, whatever, you want those pictures for your private collection, fine. But why do they need to be on Facebook? It creeped me out, and I don’t think grandma-to-be appreciated them, either.

          • Roadstergal
            February 4, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

            Pregnancy/childbirth is a fetish, and if porn aggregators are any indication, hardly a fringe one…

            I would not be in the least surprised if there were men who set up female-name accounts to get on pregnancy/birth communities and whack it to photoshoots and videos.

          • fiftyfifty1
            February 3, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

            “The hoops for women are just getting higher and more frequent. The dads are disappearing in this.”

            Exactly. Everyone is so focused on women and whether they will be allowed to breastfeed at work that nobody is noticing that men are never expected to have to feed babies at work.

          • Who?
            February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

            We’re hearing a discussion here at the moment about how men are not benefitting from the ‘improved flexibility’ in the workplace that women take advantage of.

            In my experience there are many reasons for this, but it seems to me that as long as we talk about children, childcare and workplace flexibility as women’s issues, we’re nowhere in sorting it out.

            To add to my early morning irritation, the person opining on the topic was the appalling Meredith Hellicar, who was chairman of James Hardie and oversaw the transfer of assets overseas to avoid having to pay out the victims of years of asbestos exposure.

        • BeatriceC
          February 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

          When my kids were little I taught part time in the evenings at a community college. I didn’t always have babysitting. There was a trio of full time professors who had evening office hours who took turns babysitting. It worked for us because there were so many people who were willing to pitch in. I can’t imagine it working on a broad scale.

          • Who?
            February 3, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

            Love that, I had a group of friends who did the same thing.

            Years on, we all remember doing very little, and feeling helped a lot.

        • Angharad
          February 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

          Absolutely it shouldn’t be a requirement in any sense (including social pressure). There is a laundry list of reasons it could not work out for a family, including the baby’s temperament, the nature of the parents’ work, or just not wanting to.

          However, I don’t think allowing babies in offices will automatically lead to behavior that is disruptive, unprofessional, or awful (although it easily could be). My boss occasionally brings her toddler to work and still gets her work done, and my husband worked from home and watched our daughter until she was 14 months old, and he did his work and kept her alive and happy. Personally, I would rather focus on work at work and on family at home, so I wouldn’t take advantage of a bring-your-child-to-work policy even if my office had one for everyone and not just the management (and, as Inmara mentioned, germs).

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          February 4, 2016 at 8:58 am #

          And don’t forget that if you do go back to work, you’re a bad mom who neglects her baby by leaving him/her with strangers, but if you don’t go back to work, you’re an anti-feminist activist who’s personally keeping women perpetually pregnant, barefoot, and unable to vote.

  13. Adelaide
    February 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    I actually think this particular job may be a little different than others. I ran for office at the municipal level while pregnant. I lost by less than 2 dozen votes. Had I been elected nursing during board meetings would have been a reasonable solution to balancing my babies needs and my constituents needs. The board I ran for had 7 members. It would not have been fair to my constituents for me to duck out for multiple votes to nurse (or just not show up for meetings for a few months because I had a baby). While I would have preferred to avoid it, I would have had no problem discreetly nursing during a board meeting if it ran long. Depending on the other members of the board this could cause an uproar or be politely ignored. It is neither a political statement, nor a parenting statement. It is just doing your best to care for your baby and care for the people who elected you. There are no substitutes for some elected officials.

    • Sarah
      February 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm #


      Not loving this one, Dr A. Prefer it when you go after lactivist turdbags rather than complaining about women breastfeeding in places you don’t think they should breastfeed.

    • guest
      February 3, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

      Yeah, I can definitely see it working in some situations. And I parents should be allowed to figure out what works for them. Many women want to breastfeed for years – we aren’t going to provide *that* generous a leave policy.

    • Sue
      February 3, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

      I was on a medical regulatory Board when my daughter was a newborn. I did occasionally take her to a meeting, but stepped into another room if I needed to feed, or she woke up.

      There is a fine line between juggling multiple tasks and doing parenting during professional time.

      • Adelaide
        February 4, 2016 at 7:54 am #

        Perhaps the question is the problem. Why do we even care if any person has a quiet baby in parliament or court or anywhere else. Disturbance and distraction are the problem regardless of what the distraction is or who it is distracting. If the baby isn’t loud and the person is not significantly distracted who cares. A baby who is creating a disturbance needs to go. Then again a smartphone creating a disturbance needs to go too.

        • guest
          February 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

          This I can fully agree with.

  14. TT
    February 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    I think Dr Amy has got it wrong. The idea is that by bringing their babies to work, female MPs try to make a case in favour of maternity leave, the message being “this is absurd, I (and all other working mothers) should be allowed to stay home with my baby”. Parliaments can legislate for (longer) paid maternity leave, these MPs are lobbying.

  15. Brooke
    February 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Women in Australia get 18 weeks of maternity leave which is far more generous then what women in the US get. Shouldn’t the Australian Parliament get to decide what they allow? I find this to be a complete contradiction of the argument that women should be allowed to formula feed guilt free because they have to work and not everyone wants to drop out of the workforce maternity leave or not after having children. Oh but it’s “unprofessional” to breastfeed at work ? You claimed in another piece comparing Courtney Jung to Trump was an insult but he’s also said breastfeeding was incompatible with working & unprofessional, go figure.

    • Angharad
      February 3, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

      I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re saying here. Are you arguing that women should feel guilty feeding formula so they can return to work because they should just get elected to the Australian parliament instead?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      February 3, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

      “Take the others first,” proposed the Mule. So the Sawhorse and the Woozy made a couple of trips over the thistles to the city walls and carried all the people in safety, Dorothy holding little Toto in her arms. The travelers then sat in a group on a little hillock just outside the wall and looked at the great blocks of gray stone and waited for the Woozy to bring Hank to them. The Mule was very awkward, and his legs trembled so badly that more than once they thought he would tumble off, but finally he reached them in safety, and the entire party was now reunited. More than that, they had reached the city that had eluded them for so long and in so strange a manner.

  16. Zoey
    February 3, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    As someone familiar with how parliament works in Canada, I’m sort of confused why this would even be necessary. As a member (or even a Cabinet Minister) you have a lot of downtime when the House is in session. Realistically, the only time when you absolutely, must physically be sitting in your seat is during Question Period (if you are a Cabinet Minister or responsible for answering questions on behalf of one), if you are scheduled to make a speech, or if you need to be there to vote. But really, they ring the damned bells for a long time to tell you to get back in your seat before a vote is called anyway. So, it wouldn’t be that hard to duck out, feed your baby, and then get back to your seat without missing all that much. If anything, this is probably one of the more flexible jobs a woman could have in terms of getting breaks to breastfeed or pump.

    What’s more interesting for me anyway, is that members of parliament aren’t eligible for Canada’s relatively generous parental leave provisions given that they don’t pay Employment Insurance. So, they actually get worse benefits than most other Canadian women. That’s way more unfair than potentially not being able to breastfeed your baby physically in parliament, IMO.

    • Suzi Screendoor
      February 3, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

      If you aren’t already, keep an eye on Alberta this month.

      Our first ever pregnant-while-in-office MLA is due to give birth pretty soon:

      …AND she was just appointed to the cabinet!

      Of course, Canada already has generous parental and maternity leave, but apparently this does not apply to elected MLAs (they don’t pay into EI). Makes sense in some ways, since it would be a bit unfair to get elected for a 3 year term and spend a whole year of it on leave. Hopefully some of the other solutions presented will help encourage women to participate in politics.

    • Who?
      February 3, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

      The member in question has recently had a promotion, so is needed with her bottom on the public facing seat more often than usual.

      I think it’s a publicity stunt, myself.

      The incumbent federal government in Australia has what has become known as a ‘women problem’; no, not trouble with their periods, but trouble because hardly anyone in senior ranks is female. They have been promoting women in the last few months to try and sort that out, and this little sideshow is an element of that-‘look at us, we’re promoting a mother with a new baby’; ‘look at us, we’re changing the rules to allow strangers into the chamber during sittings so she can breastfeed.’

      Particularly rich when the fecundity of the male front benchers is taken into account, and never a word about how all their offspring might affect their work.

    • Liz Leyden
      February 4, 2016 at 2:50 am #

      In 2001, Massachusetts governor Jane Swift gave birth to twins 1 month into her term. She was the first governor to have a baby while in office.

      I don’t know if she breastfed in office, but as lieutenant governor she faced heavy criticism for making her staff babysit her older daughter (which got her a fine) and using a State Police helicopter to travel across the state to her home when her older daughter was sick. Massachusetts does not have a governor’s mansion, so she ended up renting an apartment as governor.

      • Who?
        February 4, 2016 at 3:22 am #

        Fair enough re staff, they probably couldn’t get a job in a childcare centre and presumably didn’t apply for the job to babysit.

        Also don’t think the use of the helicopter was appropriate.

        One of our recent PMs faced a storm of protest for hiring someone at taxpayers’ expense to be at home with his 14 year old son after school. Mother is a very successful businesswoman, and presumably the kids had always had someone in the house with them, but the number of people who thought it was just fine for a 14 year old to be home alone for hours day after day really surprised me.

        Given the family finances it felt a bit mean to be billing the taxpayer, and I don’t know what the rights and wrongs would be if the child was little. In my best heart I’m hoping it wouldn’t matter whether mum or dad was in Parliament.

  17. AllieFoyle
    February 3, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    I disagree. It’s not something I would have wanted to do, but I do think that it ought to be allowed. Parental leave policies are important too, but I don’t see why a breastfeeding mother couldn’t nurse while listening to a speaker or anything that didn’t require a lot of active participation.

  18. crazy grad mama
    February 3, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    I’m actually OK with this. Listening to other MPs is something that a lot of women could do while feeding their baby. It wouldn’t work for everyone—and that’s my real fear on normalizing babies in the workplace, that it’ll be used as an excuse to push short maternity leaves—but it would for some.

    However, an important follow-up question is: is it thus OK for mothers to bottle-feed their infants in Parliament?

    • fiftyfifty1
      February 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      “However, an important follow-up question is: is it thus OK for mothers to bottle-feed their infants in Parliament?”

      Although an even better follow-up question is: is it thus ok for FATHERS to bottle-feed their infants in Parliament?

      • crazy grad mama
        February 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

        Excellent point!

      • Zornorph
        February 3, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

        More important, are father’s allowed to breastfeed their infants in Parliament? You laugh, but Boris Yeltsin once had to put one of his baby daughters to his chest while traveling on a train without his wife to get her to calm down.

      • mythsayer
        February 3, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

        Exactly my thought. If mothers can feed their babies at work, it’s okay for fathers, too, right? The answer to that question from parliament better be yes.

      • Azuran
        February 3, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

        But why is your baby even there?
        I can get last minute emergency forcing you that one time to bring your baby.
        If you have a on site day care, you should be able to get breastfeeding breaks instead of pumping break.
        But your baby should not be with you at work with you on a normal basis.
        If you allow breastfeeding mothers to bring their child in order to breastfeed them. Then formula feeding mothers (or father) should have the same right.
        And should I be able to bring a 4 years old if I’m still breastfeeding it? Because seriously that would make me save thousands in day care.

        • guest
          February 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

          I bring my kids to work all the time, though. Not to feed them, but there are many times I need to pick up/drop off something, do something that doesn’t take much time. It obviously wouldn’t work for every job (wouldn’t be safe in call cases, for starters), but that doesn’t mean it’s always inappropriate for a child to be at work.

          • Azuran
            February 3, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

            But the point is, you cannot be 100% as productive when you work with your child. No matter what anyone is saying, it’s impossible. Even people who work at home are less productive if they also have to watch their kids.
            So trying to make it acceptable for women to bring their kids at work and breastfeeding while working is proving all those sexist out there that we are not able to put our work ahead of our family, that we are less productive then men and should just stay at home with the babies.
            Of course some people out there will be able to find very good employers who are very family friendly. But the vast majority of people will start seeing women are potentially future less productive employees with annoying babies at work.

          • Angharad
            February 4, 2016 at 11:45 am #

            I think the important comparison is not “work with baby” vs “100% productive” but “work with baby” vs “average productivity.” In my office my male coworkers are constantly taking long breaks to chat about politics, spend time reading the news, make phone calls about car repairs or things they want to buy, etc. They leave work and take a sick day if they have a headache or a cold. Nobody ever says a word to them about it. Yet the few times I’ve left work because my daughter has a 103 degree fever or otherwise can’t be at daycare, I get comments about my reliability. We track our metrics, and I do more work than anyone else on my team, but I get comments and questions about why I leave so early (after 9 hours) and suggestions to network more (i.e. chat about politics and sports) to increase my face time.
            I think in order to appear professional, women are supposed to mimic men’s traditional behavior, which they could only maintain with the support of an at-home wife. The reason it’s “networking” to talk about football and unprofessional to talk about (much less have) a baby at work is due more to traditional gender roles than any real difference.

          • guest
            February 4, 2016 at 11:17 pm #


          • guest
            February 4, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

            Eh, I’m just not that into super-productivity. I think happy workers make productive workers, and that satisfying down time at regular periods through out the day makes for more productive workers. I don’t worship the almighty dollar, and I don’t care that the *exact* number of widgets an employee makes be the same every single work day as long as reasonable targets are met.

  19. lilin
    February 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    I can see what you’re getting at. It troubles me that so-called progressive solutions are actually cheap substitutes for actual good maternity and paternity leave. That being said, I think there’s a difference between breast feeding in a situation where you have to talk one-on-one to a person, or perform some action, and situations in which you just have to listen. And although adults need to eat too, babies can’t be expected to understand the need to hold off while adults can.

    In short, I respect your opinion but I disagree with you on this one.

  20. Dinolindor
    February 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I don’t understand any of the push to allow mothers to feed their babies at work – since when are babies conducive for being productive at anything?

    • LaMont
      February 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

      A coworker of mine worked from home after the birth of her first child, and every so often would come into the office to get certain things done. It’s a very casual space so she’d bring the baby, and the joke was – while *she* could get her office-related work done, no one else in the department got anything done! The baby was super adorable/distracting 🙂

  21. AirPlant
    February 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    Well at least breastfeeding will be normalized for all the multitudes of people viewing Australian CSPAN…

  22. SporkParade
    February 3, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    It also reinforces the idea that a woman’s primary role in life is to breastfeed, not to change society through participation in the legislative process.

  23. Zornorph
    February 3, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    Well, for the first 10 months, I took my kiddo to the office. i could do it because I’m the boss and there was plenty of room in my office. In one sense, I was lucky in that it was a slow year – I wasn’t dealing with clients all that often. If somebody wanted to talk to me and I happened to be feeding him, I’d invite them in and apologize or give them the option to wait until I was done. If it was just talking, I could do it – feeding is a pretty mindless activity for the most part. But if anybody wanted to look at survey plans, have be bring something up on the computer, if I needed to take notes – I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that while feeding him. If it was a client who needed something like that, I would have just politely told them to wait.
    As for Parliament, I imagine it’s pretty boring sitting there listening to speeches, but why not just stay in your office and breastfeed while watching it live on the TV? Unless you are needed for a vote, I can’t see any advantage of sitting in there to feed the baby – wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your office?

    • Angharad
      February 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      I personally would be more comfortable in my (theoretical) office, but I think the more options the better. I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public either, but I definitely think it should be allowed.

  24. Amy M
    February 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    Then there’s this:

    That woman breastfeeds while exercising. I don’t care that she does, as long as she’s not dropping dumbbells on the baby, but evidently, there ARE people who are upset that she isn’t giving her baby 100% of her attention. The same goes for women who use smart phones, watch tv, read or any activity that takes attention away from baby: not ok in some people’s books.

    I would hope that the people who have a problem with a woman checking her phone while nursing, would also have a problem with her working while nursing, but I wouldn’t be shocked if some of them are applauding this decision. Even if the woman isn’t giving 100% attention, at least she isn’t giving formula! Of course, there are those who think mothers shouldn’t be working at all, and they would not approve of working and nursing.

    • namaste863
      February 3, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

      Ugh, and the same people would be bitching at her for gaining weight if she didn’t exercise. You can’t win.

    • Zornorph
      February 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      I honestly found feeding to be the most tedious thing of all with baby care. I went through this jag of watching Holocaust documentaries when I was feeding him, which appalled his godmother who claimed that he’d pick up evil vibes or something.

      • Amy M
        February 3, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

        Oh yeah, my husband and I spent plenty of time watching tv or whatever while feeding. The babies were always interested in eating, not in interacting with us. When they got a little older, over 6mos, there was more interaction at feeding times, but still their main activity was eating.

      • LovleAnjel
        February 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

        Feeding DD was good for one whole episode of most hour-long dramas (Game of Thrones, The Tudors, ect.). She’d eat for a few minutes, cry for twenty (reflux), then feed the rest of the time. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have something to watch during all that.

      • Mishimoo
        February 3, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

        I watched a lot of tv and caught up on novels while feeding. At least until they got old enough to grab the books, then it was just tv. The only lasting effect is that they all have a slightly weird accent, but that could be from spending time with family as well.

    • demodocus
      February 3, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      If i’d given my child 100% of my attention while he was nursing (30 minute stints, too, ’cause he’d fall asleep halfway through and still be nursing) I probably would have freaked out far, far earlier.

    • guest
      February 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

      I played so much Angry Birds while breastfeeding. It’s 3 AM, the infants have their eyes closed tight as they eat. I’m bored and I’m at risk of falling asleep with them still in bed with me. Eff anyone who dares to criticize my choice to entertain myself during a mindless childcare task.

    • BeatriceC
      February 3, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

      I can’t count the number of tests I returned to students that had baby slobber and milk stains on them. Wanna guess what I did during those middle of the night feeds?

  25. namaste863
    February 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    No way. When on the clock, the job gets full attention, period. The whole point of a profession is that it is supposed to produce some sort of result, and Clients/patients/bosses/whatever are paying good money to have that result achieved. A practitioner splitting her focus between her work and her baby is NOT fully providing the service for which she is being paid.

    As an aside, I think it’s ridiculous that employees are now basically expected to be on call 24/7/365. Everyone needs a break. Or, to put it another way, there’s a reason why we are called human beings, not human doings.

    • LaMont
      February 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      I had a job where I was essentially on-call at all times, went to sleep at 2am on a Sunday night/Monday morning, woke up at 6am to a bunch of “WHERE ARE YOU” emails from the ~4am range. Getting fired from that job was the best thing that ever happened to me.

      • namaste863
        February 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

        Ugh, that’s really, really shitty treatment. How is it that people no longer respect their employees basic biological need for sleep?

        • LaMont
          February 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

          Plenty of people can handle it (it involves a style of life-planning where you never put something on the calendar more than five minutes in the future), but their high turnover at that place says not many can or want to…

      • Who?
        February 3, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

        I once watched a private conversation board-I was a member-get very hot over how best to deal with working through the night. If I send the email at 3am, will the client think I’m going all out, or that I’m fitting his work in? And so on.

        Hope you found a less mad workplace.

  26. momofone
    February 3, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    Years ago, I took my dog to the vet and was appalled that the vet came in to the exam room with her very young baby (three months old-ish) in her arms. I love babies. I would have loved seeing her baby in a different setting. In that one, however, I expected that her attention would be focused on what she was doing with my dog. It also seemed like poor judgment, given that she put the baby in my dog’s face and encouraged the baby to see/pet (as she guided baby’s hand to my dog)/etc. What if my dog had been injured, or had been scared, and had snapped at or bitten the baby? I saw her once more (for next set of shots), she did it again, and that was the last time I took my animals to her.

    If a client I’m seeing brings a baby and nurses while we are meeting, that’s fine. For me to do it would absolutely be disrespectful, and would prevent me from focusing on what was going on with my client. No way.

    • ElaineF
      February 7, 2016 at 9:21 am #

      I think that having baby at work/breastfeeding at work could be appropriate in certain situations. That’s definitely not one of them. Yikes.

      I am a pharmacist with a retail chain. Every once in a while (think once a week or less) my husband would bring the baby to me and I’d take a little break and sit in the back to nurse. 5 minutes or less. Then baby would be going back to dad, not staying with me while I worked. I wasn’t doing other job duties during that time. I don’t see a difference from me taking a 5 minute break to use the bathroom or grab a snack or make a phone call to my kid’s doctor’s office or similar. And typically it replaced or shortened a 15 minute pumping break I would otherwise take. I think some staff thought it was a little weird, but in general breastfeeding is not really a thing at my work.

  27. The Bofa on the Sofa
    February 3, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Moreover, breastfeeding at work isn’t a matter of business accommodating mothers, which would be a victory; it’s all about mothers (and babies) accommodating business.

    This is I think the most important conclusion.

    • CCL (Crazy Cat Lady)
      February 3, 2016 at 11:48 am #

      Yes, that line is spot-on.

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