But apparently, a lot of women are working and pumping these days. I guess if you don't now, you're supposed to feel bad. It's hard enough to be a working mother without having people upping the standard of what it takes to do it passably well.
But as for the women who want to do it... they'd like more active accommodation by their employers. In pursuit of this goal, the linked NYT article takes the equality tack: Professional women are nicely accommodated by employers who offer posh "lactation rooms" and lots of time but working class women are stuck using the bathroom during their regular breaks. Are you softened up for some legislation yet?
[F]ederal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job — despite the efforts of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who has introduced such legislation. “I can’t understand why this doesn’t move,” she said. “This is pro-family, pro-health, pro-economy.”One solution that's not mentioned is giving women longer maternity leaves so they can breastfeed the baby directly. But that, ironically, would violate the Equal Protection Clause! Maternity leaves in excess of the pregnancy disability period of eight weeks -- unless an equal period is given to new fathers -- is unconstitutional sex discrimination. That's the plain implication of the Supreme Court's opinion in Nevada v. Hibbs -- upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act as an exercise of Congress's Fourteenth Amendment power -- as I pointed out in a law review article (PDF):
Meanwhile, states are stepping in. Twelve states have passed laws protecting pumping mothers — Oklahoma’s law, the newest, will take effect in November. But like Oklahoma’s, which merely states that an employer “may provide reasonable break time” and “may make a reasonable effort” to provide privacy, most are merely symbolic.
There was no recognition in Hibbs that a state might, without engaging in mere sex stereotypes, genuinely think that more than eight weeks are needed to recover from pregnancy and childbirth or might, quite apart from stereotypes about who ought to take care of a baby, want to facilitate breast-feeding for a period longer than eight weeks.When I was writing that article, I asked a colleague why no one brought up breastfeeding. She didn't have any ideas about why the states wouldn't use breastfeeding to account for treating men and women differently when it comes to giving leave to new parents (a key issue in Hibbs). But, she said, women's groups have not worked for breastfeeding leaves because it runs counter to their goal of pushing for requiring employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees. And, I would add, it conflicts with a preference for keeping women in the workplace. If a state offered more new parent leave to women in order to breastfeed, women's groups might construe it as an attempt to promote traditional sex roles, with the woman staying home with the baby. Can you tell the difference between a benefit and discrimination there? [ADDED: I should clarify that only government action violates the Equal Protection Clause, so that if the state is not the employer and if the new statutory law did not require longer leave for women, it would be possible to redo the statutory law that limits private employers.]
[FOOTNOTE} See Liz Galst, Babies Aren’t the Only Beneficiaries of Breast-Feeding, N.Y. TIMES, June 22, 2003, § 15, at 4 (noting the developing scientific evidence indicating that breastfeeding offers greater health benefits to children as well as to mothers). It is puzzling that there is no mention in the briefs or in the opinions of the issue of breast-feeding, which entails a real physical difference that can justify treating new mothers differently from fathers. The importance of accommodating breast-feeding women in the workplace should not make it seem invidious to support a new mother who wants to take a longer leave to procure this health benefit for herself and the infant, instead of struggling with breast-pumping or bringing the infant into the workplace. That medical research is developing in this area suggests the value of leaving room for experimentation with maternal leave policies.
I think we could support giving women more of a choice whether to stay home and breastfeed or go back to work and continue to breastfeed. There is so much pressure on women! It's hard to go through pregnancy and childbirth and to take care of an infant. Breastfeeding a pretty simple part of this if you have your baby close by. But you may need to go back to work or want to go back to work. I strongly support that. And I support the pumping approach if you can do it. And of course the employer should accommodate the physical needs you will have. But it's a much harder question whether there should be laws that allow you to sue if you think your employer hasn't helped you enough. But of all the things we ought to do to make life easier for mothers, we should quit making them feel like they have to go through the pumping routine. It's hard to work and have an infant at home. It's going to be harder if you have to pump breastmilk throughout the day while you're trying to pay attention to your work -- regardless of how accommodating the employer is. Frankly, quite aside from the pumping task, I would not want to have to try to concentrate on work with my breasts acting up continually.
Now, before you pile on in the comments, let me restate my point. I think it's fine and admirable for women to pump breastmilk in the workplace, and employers should voluntarily accommodate them, but legislation may not be needed, we shouldn't put pressure on women to keep up breastfeeding when they go back to work, and women who decide they don't want to do it should feel perfectly justified in their decision.