Breastfeeding Moms Face Discrimination When Going for Certain Jobs

woman taking testWhen you're on the track to becoming a lawyer, one of the universally used criterion for admissions is the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), given by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). You pay over a hundred dollars to sit for three and a half hours of testing, which I'm sure ends up taking around four, between instructions, passing things out, and the single 15-minute break.

If you're a breastfeeding mom, you know that especially if your baby is smaller and nurses more frequently, four hours with a 15-minute break can be hell on your breasts AND your supply, especially if you're struggling with maintaining supply to begin with. What one mom, Ashley, discovered is the LSAT doesn't care -- in fact, they told her when she filed a request that she needed to just deal or even wait until she's not breastfeeding to take the test.

So apparently, you can't breastfeed AND become a lawyer? She's not the first going for an awesome career who has had this problem either ....


According to the ACLU's blog, Ashley took the exam, regardless, but still wants to fight it. However, Jake Aryeh Marcus of Sustainable Mothering, who happens to be an attorney, wonders why the ACLU isn't filing a lawsuit on her behalf. So do I, actually.

Especially considering, as Jake pointed out, now-doctor Sophie Currier tried to take the exam through the National Board of Medical Examiners, a NINE-hour test, after her Harvard schooling, and was told the same thing -- "Breastfeeding is not a disability." They allowed 45 minutes of break time. She sued for more break time and won. Want to know why? Because a lactating woman who goes extended periods of time without at least expressing milk will be caused physical pain, can leak everywhere, and actually faces real medical risks from mastitis. Currier's daughter was 4 months old at the time, and especially if she was exclusively breastfeeding (likely), milk expression at regular intervals is critical for her health and comfort.

When New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, who sponsored the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011, heard about this, she said: “The board should know that breast-feeding mothers needs to express her milk approximately every two hours. It’s a natural process. She can't turn it off."

Some of these tests, apparently, are a one-shot deal. I don't know all the details, but getting it right, the one and only time you take it, is critical. Many people don't support either of these moms -- but then again, many people, MOST people, in fact, have no idea how lactation actually works, or understand that the ramifications of going four hours without at least hand expression will last for days or even forever if she suffers an infection from mastitis that gets out of hand. It's really a big deal. If you got extremely engorged and leaked when you moved when your baby was a newborn, imagine trying to take the most important test of your life at a computer, surrounded and watched by other people, with your breasts leaking through your shirt and hurting like hell. Yeah, not so cool, is it?

In almost all states, moms who are breastfeeding infants are exempt from jury duty because of the commitment and frequent breaks it requires. I got a summons two years ago and got out of it by sending back a card saying, "This trial starts four days after my due date. I will either be hugely pregnant and likely to burst any moment, or breastfeeding a newborn baby." So we're protected in some places, at least. I hope sooner, rather than later, this kind of thing becomes a non-issue.

Do you think these mothers should be given extra time to pump?


Image via John Althouse Cohen/Flickr

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