Notes on Breast-Feeding

Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:30pm

It was inevitable.  

Hill Navigator wrote about Capitol Hill maternity leave policies  back in July. The next logical step? A follow-up story about congressional staff and breast-feeding.  

From Monday’s Roll Call: The Other Backroom: Breast-Feeding on Capitol Hill
As one source for the story told me, “When I saw your maternity leave post, I knew it was just a matter of time before you wrote about breastfeeding.”  

Quite true. Unlike maternity leave policies — which vary widely by office — there are clear, defined options for moms who want to continue breast-feeding when they return to work. Since 2006, Capitol Hill has quietly expanded and added lactation units, providing working moms quiet, clean and comfortable places to pump.  

The women I interviewed were effusive about their experience pumping on Capitol Hill. “The mom network is very strong,” said Stacy Kerr, a dynamic mother of three whose enthusiasm for the lactation lounges has surely helped other mothers continue to breast-feed. Health experts, from former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to La Leche Leaders right here in the District, agree that lactation rooms are one of the best ways to support breast-feeding mothers. And the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommend breast-feeding an infant exclusively for the first six months of life.  

And yet, breast-feeding is often regarded as a taboo topic. Most of the women interviewed for the article declined to be named. “It’s not a woman’s best look,” said a Senate committee staffer, who had pumped for her three children.  

Providing breast milk for an infant is normal. It’s healthy. A breast-feeding mother cannot take a day off from producing milk. The availability of lactation lounges is a credit to Capitol Hill’s willingness to be a conscientious employer. And it is a “lifesaver” to many Capitol Hill mothers, as attested by Salley Wood, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Attending Physician who just started a new gig as communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich.  

And I would be remiss if I did not mention my own membership in La Leche League . CQ Roll Call, like so many other organizations in D.C., provides a dedicated lactation space, one that I am fortunate to have access to.  

Hill Navigator was created as a column dedicated to the unique workplace concerns of congressional staff. My hope is that this article will empower moms on Capitol Hill to breast-feed until the desired time of their choosing. The “mom network” may continue to work its magic, but it’s helpful to have a newspaper — like Roll Call — take the time to put all the information in one place.