Breastfeeding at Work: The Great Divide

By Christine Cupaiuolo — September 5, 2006

On Friday, The New York Times published a front-page story on the breastfeeding divide: women in white-collar positions more often have access to private breastfeeding rooms (or at least a little privacy) at their employment than other working women, particularly those in the service industry who are afforded few breaks and little support.

The result? Many women are unable to continue breastfeeding when they return to work, despite their desire to and despite all the evidence that points to the health benefits for mother and child.

Looking at other blogs, Rachel at Women’s Health News provides a nice summary of the Times article by Jodi Kantor and offers some related links about breastfeeding (including her previous analysis of the newly launched HHS campaign designed to encourage women to breastfeed).

The story’s popularity was noted by Broadsheet’s Tracy Clark-Flory, who writes, “That this interesting look at the two-tier corporate breast-feeding system remained the Times’ top e-mailed story Friday shows just how heated the subject of breast-feeding has become.”

I couldn’t help but wonder when reading it what steps the NYT has taken to provide for its employees who breastfeed and was thus delighted to find that Kantor answers my question in this five-minute video titled “The Milk Gap.” Kantor shows viewers the well-appointed “New York Times pumping room.” Decorations include a bulletin board covered with photos of the babies of NYT employees.

“You never even have to tell your boss that you’re getting up from your desk,” says Kantor, though she doesn’t specify if this is the case for all Times employees or just the reporters/editorial staff.

Kantor also introduces some of the women quoted in the article, like Brittany Moore, a Starbuck barista who feeds her 9-month-old daughter formula. “Wow,” says Moore, when she hears Kantor describe the lactation room at Starbucks corporate headquarters, with its comfortable recliners and privacy curtains. Starbucks public bathrooms may be painted pretty, but they’re not all that.

Plus: Don’t miss the related story “Necessity on One Hand, Security on the Other.” Obviously if traveling mothers try to transport breast milk on airplanes without their baby in tow, the terrorists win.

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