Reading on the Run: IBM Has a New Policy Supporting Breastfeeding Moms | Chaton's World: A Working Mom's Quest for Balance in Stilettos© ga('require', 'GTM-TC7LCRV');


Reading on the Run: IBM Has a New Policy Supporting Breastfeeding Moms

Expressed breast milk

"Being a working mom is harder than it needs to be because corporate policies and practices were not created with us in mind..." Chatón T. Turner

As a working mom who is committed to breastfeeding I can tell you that it is not for the faint of heart. In order to make it work for at least a year, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it takes preparation and persistence. (The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding for two years.) I can also say that it is more difficult than it needs to be because for many companies the needs of breastfeeding moms are a complete afterthought.

I have been fortunate though. I had my first baby in 2010 after President Obama required companies to provide breaks for lactating moms. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) requires employers to provide 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. Employers are also required to provide a clean, private place to be used for pumping. This law became effective on March 23, 2010.

I am an attorney at a large organization and have an office with a door. That gives me the ability to pump when I can. I have learned that the mute function on my phone is a gift from God. Also, most people don't hear the pump on the phone. And when they do, they don't comment. With so many people taking calls while walking, driving and at home, the sound of the pump doesn't seem to draw attention. I can also attest that I've heard many dogs barking, birds chirping, and ice clicking, on conference calls. If someone says something about my pump, I'll have a real issue...

Because of the control I have over my schedule and the ability to lock my office, I have been able to breastfeed my kids like I'm a hippie. My daughter nursed until she was over two years old and at fifteen months my son shows no interest om stopping. In that regard, I am very blessed.

Remote Work Assignments Complicate Life for Lactating Moms

That said, when I am on a remote assignment or attending an outside meeting, it is a real struggle to pump. Most events are planned without considering the needs of the lactating mom. I once pumped at a conference center in an unlocked room with a sliding glass door because I needed to do and was assured that "nobody ever goes in there". It worked out for me, but I was really nervous and angry that nobody had thought that there might be a lactating mother in the group of 1500 people!

Indignities like this are completely avoidable with proper planning. However, most companies merely tolerate working mothers. They do not actually have policies that promote working mothers that are designed to allow them to provide the best nutrition for their babies and excel at their jobs. The result is many women abandon breastfeeding shortly after returning to work because it is simply too hard to make it work. They often feel defeated and feel as if they have let their babies down.

IBM Should Be Applauded for Supporting Breastfeeding Moms Regardless of Cost

IBM recently passed a policy that has me so excited I could pull a Brandy Chastain and wave my t-shirt in the air!  In a released statement IBM said, "[t]he concerns about cost are [nothing] compared to our drive to help our working moms."  That company has done what many companies have refused to do. They have established a culture that doesn't merely tolerate breastfeeding. Instead, at IBM, breastfeeding is promoted. 

Here’s a link to an article discussing the IBM policy, IBM's traveling moms can ship breast milk home for free

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