Breast Feeding and the Work Place…other facts about maternity leave.

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Restatement of information related the parenting a new born and the related laws.

“Parents have it so hard these days.” How many times have you heard that? Well I am here to say that I just don’t see it that way. When you take a look at the protection provided in the United States under state and federal law for new parents and the kinds of services offered for children of working parents, you have to be impressed. At least I am. Internationally, things are in some cases, much better than in the USA. I am a grandmother that works very closely with my children in the rearing of my grandchildren. In the summer I am the ‘full-time’ grandma/softball watching-swim pool companion-baby sitter. I am the mother of three, grandmother of 10 retired educator and for many years, a stay at home mom. I know what we have now compared to that era when I was raising my children. The pre-1990s were not a working mother/fathers dream.

Today mother/fathers are provided with services that parents of earlier eras only hoped for. Daycare, camps, and creative neighborhoods with Home Owner Associations are at their disposal. Jackson School neighborhood in Hillsboro, Oregon is one such area. Swim team, swim lessons, tennis camps and art camp are, in many cases, right in the neighborhood, usually only a bike ride away.

Day care centers provide art/crafts, preschool education, swim lessons and a secure environment. Montessori pre-school education will give children a leg up in the learning process through developmentally appropriate practices and I recommend them highly. If you need or like to work outside the home, choosing the right daycare will put your mind at ease. But the fact that there are choices simply amazes me. While baby care is expensive it does give families the opportunity to work and gain seniority while the babies are growing. They take a hit in the pocket book so they can take advantage of the pay off down the road a bit. In the end the children will benefit from the parents tenacity.

Mothers are given the opportunity to use a breast pump at work in some states. The State of Oregon has such a law that was signed by Govenor Kulongoski in 2007. Mothers have to be given a private space and time to use the breast pump. The law is not perfect when you consider the words “undue hardship” and “unpaid” but still it does acknowledge the need.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski on May 17 signed legislation that requires employers of 25 or more employees to provide unpaid rest periods to employees to express milk, so long as providing them does not cause undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

According to the federal law signed in Family and Medical Leave Act or 1993, mothers and fathers can share 12 weeks of maternity leave (without pay unless the employer volunteers or pay is negotiated by your union) to bond with the baby. This law provides:

-Keep any health insurance you already had during the time you are off.
-Get your old job back, or a job with equal pay, status and benefits, when you return.
-Take a total of 12 weeks off work without pay.

The National Conference of State Legislatures give the list of laws nationally relating to breast feeding:

  • Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming).
  • Twenty-five states and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming).
  • Twenty one states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming).
  • Ten states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia).
  • Five states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign (California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Vermont).
  • Virginia allows women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state.

Several states have unique laws related to breastfeeding. For instance,

  • The state of Virginia allows women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state. Puerto Rico requires shopping malls, airports, public service government centers and other select locations to have accessible areas designed for breastfeeding and diaper changing that are not bathrooms.
  • At least two states have laws related to child care facilities and breastfeeding. Louisiana prohibits any child care facility from discriminating against breastfed babies. Mississippi requires licensed child care facilities to provide breast-feeding mothers with a sanitary place that is not a toilet stall to breast-feed their children or express milk, to provide a refrigerator to store expressed milk, to train staff in the safe and proper storage and handling of human milk, and to display breast-feeding promotion information to the clients of the facility.
  • California requires the Department of Public Health to develop a training course of hospital policies and recommendations that promote exclusive breastfeeding and specify staff for whom this model training is appropriate. The recommendation is targeted at hospitals with exclusive patient breastfeeding rates ranked in the lowest twenty-five percent of the state.
  • Maryland exempts from the sales and use tax the sale of tangible personal property that is manufactured for the purpose of initiating, supporting or sustaining breastfeeding.
  • California, New York and Texas have laws related to the procurement, processing, distribution or use of human milk.

However, when it come to contraception, there is still quite a ways to go. We will need these laws for breast feeding mothers if insurance companies have their way because according to BNET, A panel of judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has ruled 2-1 that an employer may exclude contraception coverage from its health plan without violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.” The 8th Circuit court overruled a decision made by the US Circuit Court of Nebraska in 2006. You can get more information at this site on maternity leave, etc.

Parents around the world are also being helped. Great Britain provides SMP (Statutory Maternity Pay) and in Denmark parents are given 52 weeks (no that’s not a misprint!) between them for maternity leave. Mothers are required to take 14 days after the birth of their child. In some international schools abroad teachers are given much more flexibility for breast feeding and in many cases child care is right on campus allowing parents to visit their children for lunch and breast feed. In fact I believe that ex patriots are living in a child friendly world. When the United States catches up in this area we will have an almost perfect world. Things are not ideal yet but the improvement over the years has been astounding.

In that earlier era here in the United States, parents hustled their children off to ‘babysitters’ with the emphasis on the sitter. She might have been the only show in town. The children played with other children, watched television and the sitter sat and watched. In many cases the sitter smoked or visited with friends as babies crawled about. Lactating mothers hid in the bedroom and really didn’t feel free to breast feed even in the restrooms of public buildings. Women were not encouraged to beast feed. Now while this was not awful, a lot of moms, including me, thought that they should be the one watching their children grow and should be breast feeding if we wanted to.

If I had had all the choices out there today, I would have taken a different path. I would have taught in a center where my child was staying so I could be close by or worked part time during their preschool years. If I had known what I know now about travel, I would have worked overseas and taken advantage of a baby friendly workplace. I would have had my 30 years career with a retirement of my own. My children would have seen me in a different light and all the women of my era could have provided an opportunity for our daughters to work in a world of equal opportunities. I have so much admiration for women my age that managed to juggle it all with no more support than they had. It was very, very difficult.

So in a world of dire predictions about children and the world they are growing up in, I see hope and feel that parenting has never been better nor children smarter. And I believe it is because we are getting much better at providing for the needs of growing families.

That is what I think. 🙂


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5 thoughts on “Breast Feeding and the Work Place…other facts about maternity leave.

  1. wow! how long did it take you to put this piece together? a lot of information here! 52 weeks! oh, why can’t the world follow suit? and i agree with you on many points. when i was a teenager, all of my sisters had their kids around the same time (there is a 15 year difference between me and my sisters) and my mother took care of all of them! six of them to be exact, with me helping. and, yes, the kids – luckily because there were so many of them – entertained themselves and got into a lot of mischief and grew up very, very close. but, that is it…. they entertained themselves. there was no such thing as camps or swimming lessons or ballet or any of the sort. we’re talking 35 years ago. things were a lot different back then. mothers’ options were limited – either your mom or somebody else’s mom would take care of your child. i’m amazed at the options and benefits mothers have today and at the amount of extracurricular activities kids have as well. parents today do not realize that it was not always like this. the world has come a long way and they are more blessed because of it.

  2. rebecca, I spent one day at the computer minus the time to take care of the grandchildren. Not much time actually. But the process for writing probably happened in the night sometime. Isn’t the internet wonderful when it comes to research? The two things that hit me the hardest: no contraceptive for women but medicine allowed for erectile dis-function AND the fact that breast feeding was EVER considered “indecent exposure”! So, so sad.b

  3. i find it interesting that something natural like breast feeding is considered indecent exposure and yet topless beaches and bathing suits that barely cover the essentials are not. very sad.

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