Let’s just get it out there. Being a Mom can be a dirty job. You have to deal with pee and poop. A LOT. That’s even AFTER you figure out that those swimmy diapers rip off on the side so you don’t have to rake poop down your baby’s legs at the pool (trust me, it’s messy). So, after all that, who wants to spend more time in the bathroom than you have to? Not me, but I’ve noticed that’s where mothers end up, though not by their own choice.
One of the stipulations of the Affordable Care Act, that just went into effect recently, forced employers to provide a place for nursing mothers who returned to work to pump. A private place that is NOT a bathroom. What’s the big deal with pumping in the bathroom you may ask? Well I have become somewhat of an expert. These are all the places I had the “pleasure” of pumping when Charlie, my Dad and I went to Alaska recently.
I was shocked to see some of the weary and startled faces I encountered when I had to ask people the best place for nursing mothers to find a little privacy. The worst? The customer service desk at the Dallas Airport. She looked at me like I literally had two heads (instead of just two boobs that have been working overtime the past 8 months to nourish my child). So a few times in those 12 hour travel days, I ended up in the family restroom at a couple of different airports. For twenty minutes I sat there, perched over the bench that is only supposed to hold your purse so I didn’t have to sit on the toilet, while other people knocked on the door and the smell of dirty diapers radiated from the nearby trash can. Not a pleasant experience. The Alaska Railroad was a lot more accommodating, thank goodness. On that 5 hour train ride, the conductor personally walked me up and down the whole train, until we found an employee bathroom with a working electrical outlet that would power the pump. Even the 22 year old summer employee at Kantishna Roadhouse, the only lodge inside Denali National Park, hid his smirk pretty well when he suggested I use an employee cabin.
I realize that traveling, away from your baby, while you are still breastfeeding, is a challenge that I chose to take on in order to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my father. But was it really necessary to spend all of that time in a “foreign” bathroom, just to feed my sweet Lila? Can’t we all just get over the giggle that seems to go hand-in-hand with the image of what breastfeeding/pumping entails, and be a little more accommodating to women who sacrifice a lot of time to do the best they can by their baby?
I’m not even going to go into all of the strange/somewhat offensive responses I got when I had to call a dozen places in Anchorage, Alaska to find one that was willing to help me ship my breast milk overnight so my supply wouldn’t be wasted.
If you’re ever in Alaska, be sure to visit the New Sagaya Market, they’ll take extra care in shipping both your freshly-caught Salmon and your breast milk :).
I am lucky that my employer went above and beyond when it came time for me to come back to work, suggesting a private, unused office that was out of the way for my two 20-minute sessions a day. I know most people aren’t that lucky, even though it’s now federally mandated that they be. Some will still be banished to the bathroom.
The same is true for moms who find themselves breastfeeding in public. No one WANTS to whip out a boob in Target, trust me. But sometimes your baby needs to eat and you need diapers AT THE SAME TIME! So don’t give them the stink eye if they’re sitting in the chair by the fitting room, trying to make sure they don’t flash unsuspecting shoppers.
All any of us are trying to do do, whether we are pumpers or breastfeeders, is just make it through the next feeding with a happy baby.
We shouldn’t have to spend 3 extra hours a day in the loo just to make sure we get there.