The other day I dropped my mom off at the Baton Rouge airport and during a quick trip to the restroom I had to smile. Posted right beneath the “women” sign for the bathroom was a sign that read “Lactation Room”. Finally! I am all for breastfeeding. I breast fed my own daughter for the entire first year of her life. When I see a woman breastfeeding in public, I politely turn away but it doesn’t bother me that she’s feeding her child in the most loving, natural way in public. I know it bothers some people, but really it shouldn’t. Breastfeeding is beautiful. I know not everyone wants to watch it but it shouldn’t bother anyone since chances are those people that raise such a fuss over it were breastfed too.
I was so happy to see that sign. It was the first sign that I’ve seen of its kind. Maybe I don’t get out as often as I should to see other signs like that, but to my knowledge, Mississippi is the only state that has a law in place for breastfeeding mothers to have a sanitary place to breastfeed that is not a restroom. I thought more states would have similar laws but the closest the majority of states came to having any laws for breastfeeding women was that they are exempt from public indecency. Sadly, breastfeeding women aren’t exempt from that law in every state.
When I was breastfeeding I was also a working mother. I refused to let my daughter have anything other than breast milk, even in her baby cereal, so I had to express my milk for her. I bought the Cadillac of breast pumps, which cost over three hundred dollars at the time of purchase. I bought the top of the Medela pump that looked like a bulky briefcase so I could bring it to work without the guys that I worked with knowing exactly what it was. Because I was in the Navy at the time, I had to clear carrying the pump over my shoulder with my commanding officer since it wasn’t a Navy issued or Navy approved bag.
When it came time to pump for the first time, I asked the officer in charge of where I worked where I could pump. He hemmed and hawed for a while since the question obviously made him uncomfortable. I was under the impression that they were supposed to give me a private place to pump. I was expecting the lieutenant to offer me one of the empty offices that were in the AIMD building since no one was using those rooms. Instead, the lieutenant’s solution for me was to go into the women’s bathroom and sit behind the lockers that formed a semi-private place. He gave me a chair to sit in and sent me on my way.
I placed the chair so it faced into the corner of the lockers leaving only my back exposed to any other woman passing through the head. I wanted to be completely relaxed so my milk would flow freely giving my daughter something to eat while I was at work and relieving the intense pressure from the built up milk. I unbuttoned my dungaree shirt, lifted my undershirt and started pumping all while looking over my shoulder and jumping at the slightest sound. I wanted my privacy. I would have been mortified if anyone would have walked in on me.
The first few weeks didn’t go so badly. I would express my milk, put it back into the refrigerated section of the pumps bag, and go back to work with the guys thinking that I had gone out for some job related task. A few times I was walked in on but no one paid any attention to me because they either knew exactly what I was doing or thought I was just cowering in a corner. But then, as soon as I let my guard down, I was walked in on. I had my chair in the corner and was halfway through pumping when a woman wearing khaki walked in. I don’t even know what her rank was; she could have been an officer or a chief. Either way she was a higher rank than I was. There I was sitting in the corner of the bathroom with my pump softly whirring. She could hear the psht psht psht of my milk going into the pump’s bottles just like the sound of a milking cow.
“Are you crying?” she asked me.
“No.” I started to blush. I felt the need to stand up in her presence because of her rank but I was stuck.
“You sound like you’re crying.” She took a step closer so I crunched lower in my chair but kept on pumping knowing if I stopped I would squirt milk everywhere.
“I’m not crying,” I said.
“You’re hiding something.” She was directly behind me.
“I’m pumping milk for my daughter,” I squeaked.
I heard her turn on one of her heels and leave the bathroom immediately without even doing her business. Privacy would have been nice.
One thing that I did learn while breastfeeding was where to feed my daughter while I was at the mall. I knew I didn’t want to feed her in the bathrooms since they were so disgusting so what I would do was go into one of the anchor stores, grab a few things to try on and push my daughter’s stroller into the changing room with me. Once I was in the fitting room, I would neatly hang up the clothes that I didn’t really need and nestle down on the chair or bench in the room and feed my daughter. Once I knew she was full and happy, I would try on the clothes and model them for her as she smiled at me from her stroller.
More places need to learn from the Baton Rouge airport and Mississippi state laws. Breastfeeding mothers appreciate their privacy while they are feeding their children. It is an intimate time between the mother and the child and interruptions aren’t appreciated. Sometimes it can be hard to get the milk flowing and so having on-lookers doesn’t exactly help the situation any. Bravo to you Baton Rouge.