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Recently, I was asked why I spend so much time thinking and talking about obstacles to pumping and breastfeeding, that I only started caring when it became a problem for me. This same person later told me how impressive my diligence was in this area, so clearly it’s a conflicting issue for many of us. But it raised a good question that I thought was worth exploring.

20140511_164723One reason I care so much is because it impacts nearly every decision I make all day. It starts when I wake up and decide what to wear. Will I be out in public with my child? If so, a nursing top may be necessary. Will I be running from meeting to meeting? If so, maybe I need a jacket to hide the pump I’m using in the car.

When you spend all that time thinking about something, it’s going to be something you talk about. Not only do I confront these challenges, but I hear from others who do everyday, some who stop breastfeeding because it’s just to difficult to overcome the obstacle.

And, with comfort in mind, mothers should make decisions about what makes them comfortable and, in turn, others should
do their best not to make mothers trying to feed their babies uncomfortable. And sometimes the only way to do this is to push everyone’s comfort level.

I have a simple set of rules: If, when I was 20, I would have been comfortable wearing a cleavage enhancing shirt in a particular venue, then it’s ok to breastfeed there. If I wouldn’t wear that shirt, then I should try every other possible calming method first. And, if I have to feed, then I will do it as discreetly as possible.

This sometimes means I plan my outfit accordingly so that I have an easily accessible but as modest as possible shirt on. And, while I have covers, quite honestly my girls will pull at them and it’s more trouble and less modest than if I just feed her.

The other day I was in church and, despite my best efforts, my infant wanted food so I discretely tried to feed her. For a moment, I felt bad and then I realized all of us here believe God created us in his image, therefore he created this feeding mechanism so he wants me to use my body to nourish my child. So I’m just going to do that.

At the end of the day, I’m ok pushing that envelope in the hopes that other mothers might feel better doing he same. But, the pushing is not just when I have baby in tow. Sometimes, the harder lift is when I have to pump.

When I decided to pump, I committed myself to it and that has meant being very creative. I spend a lot of time traveling across the state, in and out of meetings, so the requirement that my employer provide a place to pump does me little good.
On a good day, I can do it in my car between meetings. On a bad day, I’m in a bathroom hoping my batteries don’t die.

But, here’s what I’ve come to notice: While there is adequate space for quiet rooms, places where mothers could nurse or pump, this rooms rarely exists. Instead, I have to be bold about it. I have to announce my needs and seek out places. So, while I wait for an airplane, I have to search for a spot all the while thinking, “Couldn’t the family bathrooms be retrofitted with an outlet and a chair?”

What about stadiums? “Family friendly”locales aren’t so friendly when you leave at half time because you have a hungry baby who needs quiet to feed or because, with travel time, you have to pump or be back to the baby before the game ends.

Or public buildings? It doesn’t have to be labeled as such, but every public building should be able to accommodate a breastfeeding mother or pumper. There must be an empty conference room or office that can be used for 15 minutes and everyone needs to be comfortable enough to think about it so that mothers don’t feel it’s an imposition to ask.

So why do I keep talking about my breasts? It’s because I hope my daughters don’t have to. Because I hope sometime soon, mothers can expect that the outside world isn’t hindering their ability to feed their children.

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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.

1 COMMENT

  1. AMEN! I hope my Daughter doesn’t have to as well!
    Also, did you see the article about how they are researching was to innovate the pump?
    Engineers are on it! No more loud noises, more similar to the actual experience of nursing and for goodness sake, a bit smaller! Thank you for being vocal – more folks should be!!

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