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

breastfeeding, natural parenting, law, in the news, discrimination


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MamaI... MamaInTheMoment

I wish all women were always able to choose to put 100% of effort into either family or career. We can't do it all (really, we can't), and babies deserve to have their mothers there with them for at the VERY LEAST a year or so.  Then we wouldn't have to worry about these issues.  But since this is not a perfect world, and there are real situations that require women to go to work AND raise a child, then yes, of course, every effort should be made to make sure moms are able to do this wherever they are.  Breastfed children are healthier, healthy individuals make a healthy society and that's beneficial on many levels.  Besides that, what happened to compassion?

hotic... hoticedcoffee

I know my opinion is unpopular, but I'm OK with that.  I don't think the fact that a woman is breastfeeding should entitle her to special treatment in these situations.  Women kick and scream all the time about wanting "equality", and they should get it.  Unfortunately, extra breaks from placement or qualifying exams, or in the workplace - is not equality, it's accomodation because you can't perform as well otherwise.  Breastfeeding is not a deficiency, medical issue, or protected status - it's a choice.  An excellent choice, of course, but still a choice.  With choices come consequences.

jpfsmom jpfsmom

Agree with sucks but those are the breaks. And I hate to say it there are times when it's impoosible to pump. I used to have to meet clients or work a function that sometimes took up to 4-5 hours, I was engorged to the nines but it was impossible for me to excuse myself to go pump, not everyday was like that, my company was accomodating but there were times I had to bite the bullet. This goes for teachers, cops, doctors, even midwives, I'm sure you would be peeved if Gretchen Granola suddenly took a break from baby delivering to go pump. A timed test would have to be the same, what's next girls that got knocked up in h.s. Getting extra time on their SAT's? When do you the draw the line?

Angie Lopez Chelton

I *do* think that a woman who is performing a normal bodily function should be given the opportuinity to complete her tests whithout compromising her health or safety. A diabetic NEEDS to take insulin or they risk health complications. They could *choose* to ignore thier health need in order to conform to an arbitrary testing proceedure, but no one would expect them to.

Breastfeeding *isn't* a medical condition. However, NOT breastfeeding can lead to serious medical conditions. This could be easily solved by changing the testinging procedures (which aren't written in a DNA code like, say, lactation is) and allowing periodic half hour breaks for everyone.

And, by the way, lactating *ISN'T* a choice- it's biology; it's what happens to feed the baby after a pregnancy. NOT BREASTFEEDING after the infant is delivered is the choice- that's the variant from normal.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

Angie, playing semantics doesn't advance your position.  But since you're trying to do it anyway, I'll play.  You're correct - lactation isn't a choice.  Breastfeeding is a choice.  If you choose not to breastfeed your child, your body will stop lactating.  Choice and consequence.

gnata... gnatalie78

No breastfeeding is not a choice, it's biology. NOT breastfeeding is a choice. Having a period is not a choice, it's biology. NOT having a period is a choice. The idea that women who "choose" to breastfeed should suffer consequences is flat out discrimination of mothers simply because they are mothers.

Amy Knoch

I'm with hoticedcoffee.  My daughter is 4 months old, and I've gone full 10 hours without breastfeeding her... yes, I had to pump like mad for 3 days following as well as nursing her every 2 hours for 2 days to get the fullness back out... but it can be done.  If it is such a problem, then they need to make different choices.  Asking for special treatment is ridiculous on their part.  It is one day.  One day will not kill them.  Going 4 hours between feeds/pumping will not damage their supply irreparably unless there are already supply problems in place, in which case, why are they even considering doing anything other than focusing on those supply issues?   Quit your whining.  So you want to be a lawyer, what are you going to do, interupt court proceedings because you need to go pump?  I think not. 

jpfsmom jpfsmom

Gnatali...a 60 year old woman that doesn't get her period due to menopause is "choosing" that?

mom2m... mom2monsterboys

@gnatalie78, just an fyi but not all of us who don't breastfeed made that 'choice'. Assumptions about non-breastfeeders gets old. I don't make assumptions about breastfeeders and I'd prefer the people of the world to stop making so many assumptions about other people. Quite frankly its lame.

Michelle Swift Wardwell

jpfsmom - I think gnatalie78 was refering more to younger woman who use birth control that can stop your periods, as I did with the mirena. Menopause is not a choice, it's biology.

mom2monsterboys - Just saying, the % of women of women who choose not to breastfeed and claim they can't much higher then those the are truly unable to breastfeed.

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