Monday, August 31, 2009

Pump and get dumped

The Ohio Supreme Court decided in a 5-1 ruling on Thursday that Totes/Isotoner was legally allowed to fire a breastfeeding mother for taking an extra break to pump.

When LaNisa Allen was hired as a temporary warehouse worker for the outerwear company in West Chester, Ohio, she informed them that she needed to pump her breast milk and requested a private area with an outlet to do so. Management told her she could sit in the restroom and pump at her lunch break. Even though she fed her 5 month old before her 6 a.m. shift, she found herself engorged, in pain and leaking before her scheduled 11 a.m. lunch break. So -- as anyone who has experienced breast engorgement, or anyone who has experienced an organ about to explode, can understand -- she snuck off to the restroom for an unscheduled break at around 10 a.m. to empty her breasts. With milk for her son. To eat. Just clarifying.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court Web site, approximately two weeks later, one of her supervisors came into the restroom and told her that she was breaking the rules. She had to wait an hour for her break. Later that day, Allen requested that her 10 minute break at 8 a.m. be extended to 15 minutes. She asked for 5 minutes. 1-2-3-4-5 minutes. They said no. Actually, they didn't just say no, they fired her.

For insubordination, naturally.

Allen then sued the company, knowing that Ohio's civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on gender AND discrimination based on medical conditions that arise from pregnancy or childbirth.

Here's the kicker -- The trial court found that lactating is not a condition arising from pregnancy or childbirth. Please, take a minute to let that sink in. Are you getting this? Here's what the court said in the original case:
“Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and chose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen’s condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination. See Derungs v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 374 F.3d 428, 439 (6th Cir. 2004).”
Oh yes they did.

How is breastfeeding discrimination not gender discrimination? California would agree with me. And lactating is most definitely a condition arising from childbirth. Those who are not pregnant and who do not give birth DO NOT randomly start producing milk. Yes, some women choose not to breastfeed. Some women CHOOSE to take a path that is biologically, evolutionarily, unnatural and feed their children with an imitation of breast milk; a man-made substance that strives to be as healthy as breast milk but fails. This, of course, is a different issue. There's an entire movement out there teaching women that the benefits of breastfeeding are unmatched -- for the baby, the mother and the country as a whole. There's a movement to increase the number of breastfeeding mothers, backed by huge, heaping, monstrous piles of studies. You can hear the shouts reverberating coast to coast: Breast is best!

Except for the lower-income factory worker who has no choice but to work. Then it's, Well you could have CHOSEN n0t to breastfeed, you know.

Come to think of it, maybe these women didn't CHOOSE to wean their child. I'm sure many women who opt out of breastfeeding do so from the corner in which they're trapped. On one side, society is closing in with torches and signs and angry, judgmental slogans. On the other, society has its greedy hand outstretched: Rent, food, gas, diapers. Who has the luxury to live on one income? Definitely not lower-income factory workers. Add that to the inflexible, unsympathetic, hard-headed, discriminatory companies like Totes that make it near-impossible to maintain a milk supply, and it's no wonder that many women crumple in defeat.

Here's the argument: Companies don't have to tolerate pumping because breastfeeding isn't a result of childbirth because many women choose not to breastfeed because companies don't tolerate pumping.


And besides the logistical mind-screw, do any of these judges know the unbelievable pain of engorgement? Allen should have asked her supervisor to chug a bottle or two of water, just enough to cause that aching, bulging, my-bladder-is-going-to-burst feeling. Then, when he (or she, whoever) goes to the bathroom say, Not so fast. You have to wait an hour. It's just an hour though -- no big deal.

Justice Maureen O'Connor (one of the three women on the bench) and Chief Justice Thomas Moyer agreed that lactation is, in fact, linked to pregnancy, but Allen's termination technically wasn't discrimination.

The one lonely dissenting opinion came from the male Justice Pfeifer:

"Ohio’s working mothers who endure the uncomfortable sacrifice of privacy that almost necessarily accompanies their attempt to remain on the job and nourish their children deserve to know whether
Ohio’s pregnancy-discrimination laws protect them.

I would hold in this case that employment discrimination due to lactation is unlawful pursuant to R.C. 4112.01(B), that clear public policy justifies an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine for women fired for reasons relating to lactation, and that LaNisa Allen deserves the opportunity—due to the state of the record—to prove her claim before a jury."

Bottom line: Totes decision to fire Allen was absolutely discriminatory. All she needed was FIVE extra minutes in her morning break. Five minutes. I can guarantee there are nicotine addicts who spend at least five minutes taking cigarette beaks. Not to mention, it's not like being hooked up to a machine and artificially pumped -- while sitting on a restroom TOILET -- is something a woman wants to do. It's uncomfortable, annoying and boring. But she was trying to selflessly do what's best for her child and what's natural for a post-pregnancy body while providing for her family.

Arrogance. Ignorance. Blatant sexism.

Looks like I'll be buying my umbrellas elsewhere, Totes.

Pregnant mamas: Prenatal Precaution

The American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers take a daily supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine to ensure fetuses and babies produce enough of the thyroid hormone. A deficiency may lead to mental retardation.

Think your prenatal vitamins are cutting it? Maybe not.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, only 51 percent of prenatal vitamins contain the recommended amount of iodine. Check the ingredients on your bottle to determine if you need an additional supplement.

Pregnant women need 220 mcg of iodine to reach the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), and nursing mothers need 290 mcg.

Product Recall: Baby Jogger stroller

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the stroller company Baby Jogger recalled 41,000 Baby Jogger City Mini strollers.

According to the CPSC, the seatbelt buckle can break or unlatch, allowing a child to fall out. The agency warns parents to stop using the strollers immediately.

The City Mini strollers, made in China, were sold nationwide from November 2007 to July 2009.

For a free replacement buckle and installation instructions, call Baby Jogger at (877) 506-2213 or e-mail

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Product recall: More SIMPLICITY cribs

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, another 400,000 drop-side Simplicity cribs are being recalled, making 2.5 million recalls for the brand in the last four years and 13 tragic deaths. The CPSC reported that an 8 month old suffocated and died from a defected drop-side feature. Apparently the plastic hardware can dislodge, causing a gap between the railing and mattress where an infant can fall and suffocate.

The company is no longer in business.

IMPORTANT: Some of the products were made under the name Graco, and one of the play yards used the Fisher Price rainforest motif. Please check the model numbers here to see if you're using a recalled product.

Contact the CPSC at 800-638-2772 or to report any incident with a Simplicity product.

RIP Reading Rainbow

It's the end of an era. Yesterday was Reading Rainbow's last episode on PBS, after 26 years and over 24 Emmys. Yes, Reading Rainbow was still on. I know, right?

The show started in 1983, hosted by actor LeVar Burton (NOT Omar Gooding, as much as my husband insisted) and was designed to teach kids the importance of reading. Every episode featured a different story, a new adventure, another compelling reason to pick up a book.

It was not to teach kids how to read, which, according to NPR, was part of the show's demise.

When Reading Rainbow came on the air, the main goal was to get more children psyched about books, assuming they already had the basic skills needed to actually read. Then, under the Bush administration's Department of Education, the focus of educational television was shifted toward the mechanics of reading, like spelling and phonics. While the show's original premise was important and inspirational, it wasn't deemed as critical in the Fight For Literacy to warrant the funding.

But 26 years ain't bad.

Here's to you, Reading Rainbow. You'll be missed.

And now, to reminisce:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Six-figure fine for firing breastfeeding mother

A Los Angeles taqueria owner will have to pay over $46,000 for firing a cashier worker because she used her break time to breastfeed her premature baby in her car.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing Commission found Jesus Acosta, owner of Acosta Tacos, liable for sex discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the commission ordered Acosta to pay Marina Chavez $21,645 for lost wages and $20,000 for emotional distress, as well as a $5,000 civil rights violation fine to the state of California.

California law requires employers to provide breastfeeding employees a reasonable break time to do so, unless a break would seriously disrupt the employer's operations. California mothers can also breastfeed anywhere, public or private.

Find out your state's breastfeeding laws here. Read about New York's new Breastfeeding Mother's Bill of Rights here.

This is the first state case where denying the right to breastfeed was ruled as sex discrimination.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not to belabor the point

Check out Cookie magazine's 15 breast-feeding myths.

To cut or not to cut: May not be a question

Public health officials are considering whether to implement a campaign promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States, in an effort to prevent spreading H.I.V.

Circumcision is controversial -- to say the least -- historically, religiously, passionately debated by mothers and experts across the spectrum. While foreskin has become unfashionable in the U.S., widely considered to be unhygienic and weird, The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't believe the medical benefits are sufficient enough to warrant a recommendation. I repeat: The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT recommend circumcision. Not to mention 4 out of 5 men worldwide aren't circumcised. What's up, America?

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to push circumcision for not only babies, but adult heterosexual men who are at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the New York Times, this is based on studies showing that in AIDS-riddled African countries, circumcision reduced infection risk by half. However, the trials focused on heterosexual men at risk of getting infected from female partners. This doesn't account for the largest group of at-risk Americans: homosexual men. In fact, circumcision does not seem to protect homosexuals in the first place.

Where do you stand on the circumcision debate? How do you feel about the government stepping in on this one?

Economic recovery

In lieu of our country's current economic state: A 2001 U.S. Department of Agriculture study estimated that -- due to fewer medical problems and hospital stays -- at least $3.6 billion could be saved nationally if only 50 percent of mothers breastfed for at least six months.

Breastfeeding Mamas: You've got rights.

New York mothers are having a good month, legislatively speaking. First, Gov. Paterson extended health care benefits for adult children, and now he signed The Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights into law.

It's a well-intentioned law: The government recognizes that mothers aren't getting adequate preparation and support in this seemingly natural but extremely challenging endeavor. There's also a commercial interest (formula companies) duping women into thinking formula is just as healthy and, of course, easier. Because, let's face it, Big Business doesn't make money when women breastfeed. Additionally, many hospitals are skimming over the breastfeeding tutorials and pushing bottles on newborns.

The Bill of Rights – designed by a team of pediatricians, Women Infant and Child (WIC) personnel, New York City Department of Health staff, and lactation specialists – will be distributed in prenatal healthcare facilities, hospital maternity floors and post-delivery recovery rooms to encourage and promote the truth behind this beneficial practice.

The new law includes:

  • Before delivery: The right to commercial-free information on the nutritional, medical and psychological benefits of breastfeeding, as well as an explanation of the hurdles breastfeeding mothers may encounter and how to avoid or solve them.

  • In the hospital or birthing center: The mother’s right for her baby to stay with her immediately after birth – for both vaginal and C-section deliveries – as well as the right to breastfeed immediately; to refuse bottle feeding or pacifiers; to be informed about and refuse drugs that may dry up breast milk; to breastfeed anytime, anywhere; to receive help with breastfeeding.

  • Bringing baby home: The right to refuse take-home formula samples or formula advertising packets; to access breastfeeding resources in the community; to receive information on how to safely collect and store breast milk.
The law also reminds women that breastfeeding in public is entirely legal.*

This is on top of the national campaign, Healthy People 2010, working to increase the number of breastfeeding mothers to 75 percent by 2010. Anyone unaware of the monumental benefits to breastfeeding, read this.

Will this law counter the tremendous influence of corporations -- like formula companies and health insurance agencies -- needing to make a buck? Will this law stop rude strangers from sneering? Men from sexually harassing? A breast-obsessed culture from thinking it's lewd and vulgar? (But exposed breasts in R-rated moves -- that's fine. And throw 'em all over HBO, what the hell. But feeding a baby? You've gone too far.)

Coming from a breastfeeding mother, New York's (highly dysfunctional) government and the Obama administration get an E for effort.

*Babble magazine published a great article about breastfeeding laws back in May: Did you know that 15 years ago Florida mothers breastfeeding in public could be arrested for CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE and/or HARMFUL TO MINORS? Wrap your brain around that one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brilliant Blue G

This isn't really news for parents per se-- but it's news for my dad and my husband who both refuse to eat anything blue. Artificially blue, of course, because according to them there are no naturally blue foods. Blueberries? Well, those are purple. Right.

If only they knew blue M&Ms had the power to heal spines.

According to University of Rochester Medical Center researchers, rodents with spinal cord injuries were able to walk (with a limp) after being injected with Brilliant Blue G. They temporarily turned blue, but hey, they could walk.

Now that I think about it, this might strengthen their aversion. Couldn't they come up with a more scientific chemical name than "Brilliant Blue G?" That doesn't turn mice into Smurf pets?

Perhaps I'll be avoiding Blue Frost Gatorade.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Momspiration in this fall's TV lineup

If you can somehow get your kids to bed, finish the household chores and wrangle the remote from your husband, take a breather and connect with women who truly understand you.

If you are:
  • Pregnant: Check out Accidentally on Purpose, premiering Monday, Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS. Jenna Elfman stars as a film critic who, after suffering through a breakup with her boss, hooks up with a 20-something "boy toy" and gets knocked up. Not only does she decide to keep the baby, but she moves in the Baby Daddy. Strictly platonic, of course.
  • Newly divorced: Reconnect with your FRIEND Courtney Cox, now playing a 40-year-old divorcee navigating the single world while raising a teenage boy. Cougar Town premiers Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
  • Reentering the workforce: On a more dramatic note, ER's Julianna Margulies stars in The Good Wife, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS. Her character, Alica, is a stay-at-home mom who trades in her title as "the good wife" when her husband is imprisoned for a highly public sex and political corruption scandal, forcing her to pursue a career as an attorney to pick up the pieces for her family. The Good Wife premiers on September 22.
  • Raising children AND a husband: LOST's Julie Bowen stars in Modern Family, a seemingly hilarious show about three unique, quirky families. Bowen's character, Claire, is raising three kids and a husband -- a "cool dad" who can do all the dances to High School Musical. Parents magazine called this show "a cross between The Office and Arrested Development." I'm sold! Check it out starting Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Baby Blockhead?

Over at Mama Never Said, I wrote about my gratefulness and apprehension regarding Baby Einstein DVDs. On the one hand, they calmed him during a teething bout and gave me ample time to shower and dress for the day. Yet the way those simple, spinning toys spellbind babies is downright eerie.

Then I stumbled across this: Last year, researchers at the University of Washington discovered that for every hour per day infants ages 8 to 16 months watched educational TV -- like Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby -- they understood six to eight fewer words than infants unexposed to such videos.

According to an interview in TIME magazine, Dr. Dimitri Christakis -- one of the researchers -- said that video-watching babies scored 10 percent lower on language skills than infants who had not watched them.

The magazine sites three studies as finding that all educational television -- including SESAME STREET, people -- delays language development. Looks like the Count's efforts have been in vain.

I'm sure these findings are meant to deter parents from parking their kids in front of the tube and expecting them to emerge cultured and scholarly, rather than scolding those well-intentioned, slightly smelly parents who just need 15 minutes to take a shower and get dressed. But still, the statistics are rather shocking.

What do you think? Do you have TV rules in your house?

Extended health coverage in New York

Graduating from college is stressful on both the child and parents -- especially now that entry-level jobs are scarce. Even if grads are lucky enough to snag a position, many aren't offering health benefits off the jump. Thanks to legislation Governor Paterson recently signed into law, New York families can cover unmarried children up to age 29 who aren't eligible for Medicare or employer-provided coverage starting Sept. 1, 2009.

According to Paterson, 19 to 29-year-olds make up 31 percent of New York's uninsured population. That's 800,000 more people who will have affordable health coverage available.

The good news: Since these adult children will be kept on the parent's private plan, it costs taxpayers nothing. The not-as-good news: Families will have to pay the premiums, rather than employers footing the bill. Still, the rates are much cheaper than buying an individual plan.

Monday, August 3, 2009

About this Mama...

As a trained journalist and a professional political writer, I'll keep parents up-to-date on the latest news stories, legislation, tax incentives, product recalls and pop culture.

To learn more, check out my other sites:
  • Mama Never Said - a personal blog about all the things I never knew -- or didn't understand -- before becoming a mother, in the hopes of presenting an honest, open depiction of what really happens to your body, your emotions, your lifestyle, and your sanity.
  • Mama Never Wore - A healthy beauty blog especially for mothers -- the busiest, most selfless women who deserve to feel sexy, confident and admired. Find tips, products and inspiration.
  • Mama Never Wrote- A literary parenting site for an artistic outlook and outlet. Please visit the site for submission guidelines.

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