Pump it!

January 22, 2009


The New Yorker

Image credit: The New Yorker

There was a fascinating article in The New Yorker last week by Jill Lepore about the historical ebb and flow in the popularity of breast feeding.  One of the points I found most intriguing was how the use of breast pumps has actually hurt women’s chances of gaining truly family-friendly policies in the work place.

She argues that with the rise of pumping, employers have been able to opt for creating pumping rooms and have then not needed to allow for flexible schedules or provide childcare on site or offer more generous family leave policies.  

A number of my friends pump at work and I admire them for doing so.  But in Type-A City it is also an issue.  One friend has talked about her discomfort with the pumping making too much noise and disturbing her colleagues.  Others have spoken of the trials and tribulations that go along with pumping- decreased milk supply, lugging the stuff back and forth, forgetting pumped milk in the bag and then losing it.  All in all, a pain in the breast.

It also got me thinking about something that happened over the weekend.  A friend who has a six-month-old baby was in town from California for the inauguration.  We met for brunch and at the end of the meal she went into the coffee shop’s kid room to pump- a much nicer place to do it than a bathroom stall.  My husband mentioned later that he was surprised that she had done that and had worried that parents would be scandalized to see a woman with her breast exposed.  And the sad thing- he was totally right to worry!  In California, I wouldn’t think twice about whipping out the boob to pump in a coffee shop, but here in Type-A land I would definitely feel self-conscious. 

So here we are, trying to do something good for our kids.  Hell, we are pressured to do it so that we can maintain our careers and parent at the same time, but God forbid we be public about it.  The hypocrisy is staggering.  

So I say we have a pump-in.  Pump in our cubicles.  Pump in the lunchrooms.  Pump in the conference rooms.  Pump during conference calls- and not with the mute button on.  Show our employers what this really requires.  Play on their discomfort- maybe that’s how we can get better family policies!


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