The law in Australia protects you from being discriminated against because you are a breastfeeding mother. This includes if you are expressing milk by hand or with a breast pump to give to your baby later.
Australian Human Rights Commission – Indigenous Women and Pregnancy Discrimination
FACT SHEET 10: Breastfeeding and Work
Your adoring husband has swept you off for a weekend away, full of fun and relaxation without the children, but you’re a breastfeeding mother. You opt for your stores of frozen or freshly expressed breast milk to be used whilst away and take your breast pump with you to relieve the engorgement and keep up your supply. Now imagine being publicly humiliated in air as you return home by a flight attendant who insists you stop expressing immediately. You’d be completely mortified, right?
Well this is precisely what happened to a woman in America recently (…well the first bit about the adoring husband, fun and relaxation and stored breast milk may have been my desperation for a holiday infused with a wandering mind exaggerating, but nevertheless, degraded she was)!
So, my issues with this incident are many, but I’ll only name a few:
- A FEMALE flight attendant instigated the incident – what ever happened to women uniting to empower one another? Let me guess, she was most likely single and childless and had no concept of the sharp stinging pains associated with engorgement;
- The level, or rather lack, of discretion associated with an electric breast pump, as compared to a manual breast pump, was mentioned in the article – I’m sorry, but I have never been on a flight where there hasn’t been someone droning on incessantly two isles in front or was snoring like a banshee, so I really don’t see how the humming of a breast pump could be disturbing to others. Also, if you’re pumping 3-4 hourly as this woman was, using a manual breast pump would not exactly be ideal;
- And finally, and most seriously, had the woman been breastfeeding her child on the plane would there have been any altercation at all – I should surely well hope not!
Bringing this incident back home though, I couldn’t help but think, “Only crazy things like this happen in the US, surely a woman on an Australia flight would be treated with more decency and respect”, but would they?
Within the article Meredith Laverty, of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, commented that there was no distinction between breastfeed and using a breast pump and therefore any woman operating a breast pump would be protected under the country’s sex discrimination act. That is all well and good in theory, but women are shunned left right and centre, asked to leave or move whilst breastfeeding in public all the time so why would expressing be any different?
I guess it just goes to show that in countries that claim to be open, equal and willing to accommodate, even providing nourishment for your child is still out of the scope of acceptance for some people.
Have you ever faced a situation similar to the one this American woman found herself in? What happened, did you complain and did it stop you from breastfeeding or pumping in public again? We’d love to hear from you!