Pumped Up

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Take a good look around you at work. Consider the more private locations: the storage closet, the principal's office, the employee bathroom, the conference room, the delivery truck, or a corner cubicle. Somewhere, I bet you, there is a woman pumping.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 56.5 percent of mothers with infants under one-year-old are employed. And for many mothers who want to both work and breastfeed, their only option is pumping at work.

Whether stocking shelves, waiting tables or writing briefs, it can be a tremendous challenge to find time and space to pump. Two or three times per day, a pumping mother must walk away from a busy work environment, lock herself in a private room, strip down, assemble parts, pump, wash the parts, put herself back together, store the milk and return to work. Thankfully, there are some protections.

In March 2010, as part of the controversial federal health care overhaul, Congress included the right to "a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk."

Recently, a friend, who is also a physician and is expecting her second child, met with her boss to discuss plans for returning to work. She requested schedule changes to allow for pumping time between patients.


Her boss's response was less than supportive. She informed her physician-employee that the federal law didn't apply to her as an exempt employee. She questioned whether she was asking for a lighter work load. And, she said she was worried about setting a precedent.

God forbid her boss set a precedent supporting a mother breastfeeding her baby!

Let's review the benefits of breastfeeding. For baby: breastfeeding provides antibodies and reduces chances of developing asthma, obesity and type 2 diabetes. For mom: it reduces her risk for type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and postpartum depression. And those are just the bullet points. There are innumerable additional benefits to breastfeeding.

Bosses, please set precedents. Please support women in pumping at work.

And pumping women, keep insisting -- it's worth it.

With a Perspective, I'm Veronica Jordan.

Veronica Jordan is a family practice doctor in Sonoma County.