Monday, November 10, 2014

Breastfeeding students deserve full support

An on-campus pumping incident was recently brought to the attention of San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, where I serve as a PR volunteer. A nursing mother who is also a student at a local medical institute was recently reprimanded for expressing her breast milk at school. According to the mother’s report, she was discretely pumping her breast milk needed for her six-week-old infant. However, other students complained “discomfort” about this and she was told by her instructor to find a place to pump her milk off campus.

I got the mother's letter through SDCBC. This is so disappointing. And considering the mother is attending a medical institute, this is not only disappointing but also ironic.

Even though the current federal and California state laws for lactation accommodation in the workplace and nursing in public don’t mandate space for students to pump on campus, I believe nursing students DO deserve full support.

Breastfeeding is well documented to improve child health by decreasing the risk of respiratory infection, gastrointestinal infection, sudden infant death (SID), obesity, celiac disease, and improving developmental outcome for the child. Breastfeeding also improve maternal health by decreasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease for the mother. It benefits the mother’s employer because when the child is healthier, the mother needs to take off less time from work to care for her ill child.

Given the overwhelming evidence of better child and maternal health, exclusive breastfeeding is preferred and strongly recommended for all infants under six month old with continuation until at least one year of age by the United States Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and World Health Organization (WHO).

As such, mothers who seek to provide breast milk for their infants deserve EVERYONE’S FULL SUPPORT. The student who recently reported the incident to SDCBC is a mother who not only trying to breastfeed her new baby but also continuing her education at six weeks postpartum. She is a good mother and a good student.

Mothers who are both breastfeeding and either working or going to school at the same time should be applauded for trying to do the best for both their own future as well as their infants’ health. It is essential for a mother separated from her infant to express her breast milk frequently, every two to four hours, in order to maintain and adequate supply of breast milk for her child. Recognizing this imperative, CA State Law ACR 155 and US Affordable Care Act both require that employees to provide a private place but not a toilet stall for employees to pump their milk during their work day. Although at present these laws apply to employees but not students, the need is similar and both the public and provide schools nationwide are rapidly following suit for their students as well as employees.

For example, here in California, University of California at Berkeley has a breastfeeding support program which supports all students, faculty, staff, and their spouses who choose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work or school.

In Washington State, University of Washington has many on-site lactation stations for students and staff. Some of the lactation stations even have a multiple user pump available for students to use with their own personal kit.

In Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a dozen private, locked campus lactation rooms that accommodate breastfeeding students and staff.

These are some good examples for other schools to follow. SDCBC sent a letter to the medical institute and ask them to accommodate the student's nursing needs. Although it's none of my business, I wrote to the mother and told her how great I think she was. In spite of all the difficulties, I hope she can still make her breastfeeding goal. Thinking of her 6-week-old baby, I pulled out a photo of my little one at 6 weeks old. What a tiny baby! It would sadden me knowing such a little baby not being able to be breastfed.

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