Breastfeeding – A stand against workplace discrimination

Posted in Curated
28/01/2016 Author

Recently I have read a few accounts of working mums who shared the difficulties they face at their work places with regards to expressing milk. One mum was told to stop expressing milk in the office as it was affecting her work efficiency. She was put under probation for assessment of her performance bonus. Another mum did not have a place to pump at work and asked for permission to pump at her own cubicle discreetly. Instead of encouraging her, she was told to consider to stop expressing milk as it was distracting to other colleagues even though she does it discreetly. Some of you may wonder if it was due to too much time lost at work, let’s see…. On the average each pump session lasts about 20 minutes and it happens 2 times during working hours depending on individuals, there may be 1 session during lunch time but that does not count since it is her own time. I can’t help but to wonder if these superiors are aware that they are actually displaying discrimination? Are they ignorant or are they just being difficult to breastfeeding mums?

For mummies who are experiencing discrimination at work place, please observe and share if your bosses are tolerant to other colleagues who “waste time” in other forms. Is it ok for people to go for smoke breaks 4 times a day and 15 min each time? Does smoking increase work efficiency? Should smokers be put on probation to be assess for work performance? Do your bosses think it is distracting to other colleagues when you use a feet massager while working? I truly am curious if the “horrible bosses” are being ignorant, if so,maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to blame them but maybe try to educate or encourage them to be more understanding to expressing mums. While many companies have been supportive and encouraging to breastfeeding mummies who need to pump at work, there are many others who are not. I hope soon more companies will eliminate discrimination and show more support to the mummies. Please do not ever think that they are just making an excuse to skive, if they don’t pump out their milk, their babies will have no milk to drink and their boobs will swell and leak and eventually explode. Then they will be in pain, maybe start to develop mastitis (lumps in breasts, high fever) and they can’t work on that day or even the next 2 days, even if they are sitting at the desk. Give them a few minutes to settle their mummy role and I am sure they will be a relieved, happy and efficient worker!

In the states, they introduced a “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law to help make breastfeeding and working possible for more moms across the country. The law requires employers to provide break time and a private place for hourly paid employees to pump breast milk during the work day. We hope this can be introduced in Singapore and we are personally in contact with the Singapore Breastfeeding Association to look further into this movement.

The second series of my breastfeeding project is taken at the Central Business District of Singapore. Featuring Audra, a super mum. This special series is dedicated to all working mums who pumps at work. Do not be discourage with ignorant people. You are doing what you have to do. Do not be guilty or ashamed. You are in charge of your baby’s nutrient intake. No one has the right to tell you to stop your breastfeeding journey before you or baby are ready. You are beautiful.

More about Audra – Audra used to be a key personnel in a US based company. She was a competent woman at the peak of her career and also known as a workaholic to many. She left her post a few years back to work with the happiest people on earth – children. She became a preschool teacher for a while before she had to call it quits to concentrate on nurturing her then only child and have since found a new meaning to her life. This move had shocked many of her peers and she’s known to prefer working than staying home. Since then, there are 2 new additions to the family and now she is a mother of 3 kids. Much as she misses the freedom and independence that she once posessed, she shared that it was truly worth it and fulfilling to be able to take care of her kids and be there for them. To be able to handle 3 young children on her own takes a tremendous amount of confidence and patience. We met up at the shopping centre to shop for the photoshoot outfit. I was impressed at how little time she needed to bring her whole gang to meet up with me. The whole shopping experience was challenging, but Audra was composed and calm, she even managed to get some personal shopping done. I thought “wow this is one cool mom”. She is an efficient SAHM (stay at home mom) who is clearly excelling in her role! When we discussed about dressing she said that comfort has become her priority in her daily style, there is simply no time to make up and dress up. I totally can register that. I have 2 kids, shorts and comfy slippers are my usual wear. A 20 minutes shower is a luxury that a sahm embrace, an hour of trying out clothes before deciding on what to wear is absurd and putting on make up is out of the question. I was determined to dress Audra up and to document her feeding moments at where she used to be comfortable with. During the day of shoot Audra shared with me how a familiar feeling starts to come back. I was touched by what this noble mom has given up for her kids. She is like a happy bird taking a break from her rewarding but tiring job. She was so excited that she was on heels again, she shared how she used to run around in 3inches.

The day of shoot started with make up and hairdo, she had a good and equally bad first half of the day. The family had fun at pororo park first and then a bad lunch at the foodcourt where baby spilled the kimchi soup and Jie jie almost fall off the high chair. So when we met she said ” give me a while to be happy again ” . Great technique!

Coming to the nursing part, Audra didn’t have it easy. She couldn’t follow through her breastfeeding journey with the first 2 children as she planned due to children not being exactly receptive. Now she is breaking record with her third child. It is not entirely smooth sailing as she had to engage LC (lactation consultant) for help initially. In terms of support, she is not getting it easy either. I guess one generation up were taught that formula was the best, it is convenient and it is full of nutrients. In this generation, it is known otherwise, even hospitals are encouraging breastfeeding. As a nursing mum, I believe breast is best but i also believe to each it’s own. Any mother in her right mind and state will give the best of what she can manage to her offspring. That’s plain maternal instinct at work, no doubt about that. So I totally respect any forms of milk feeding as long as it is not against mother’s will. I have spoken to many mothers, some nurse while some do exclusive pumping and some feed formula. There’s no difference in all of them, they are all riding in the same motherhood path which is tough and bumpy. Feeding is one part of it that we should discuss about but shouldn’t put all emphasis on. No one should be judged. Audra has no qualms about feeding her child in public and has no plans to bow down to rude glares and judgement. I like it when she said ” it’s my boob, it’s my baby, it’s my way.”.

Love, Jen