The New York Times ran a not-to-be-missed article, On the Job, Nursing Mothers Find a 2-Class System, which describes the obstacles some women face when pumping at work:
But as pressure to breast-feed increases, a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator. But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breast-feed at all, and others to quit after a short time.
It is a particularly literal case of how well-being tends to beget further well-being, and disadvantage tends to create disadvantage — passed down in a mother’s milk, or lack thereof.
Nearly half of new mothers return to work within the first year of their child’s life. But federal 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.”
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.
Public health authorities, alarmed at the gap between the breast-feeding haves and have-nots, are now trying to convince businesses that supporting the practice is a sound investment. “The Business Case for Breastfeeding,” an upcoming campaign by the Department of Health and Human Services, will emphasize recent findings that breast-feeding reduces absenteeism and pediatrician bills.