It’s 2017, and finally, people are starting to realize that breastfeeding is part of our world that’s here to stay. Women are done nursing behind closed doors, too — when a baby needs to eat, a baby needs to eat. No one wins if breastfeeding needs to be hidden.
The world is also starting to realize that we have to make breastfeeding an viable option for working women everywhere. Pumping breaks at places of employment are built into our laws here in the U.S., and many women are becoming more courageous about asking their employers to breastfeed their babies directly during their lunch breaks and at other appropriate times.
Still, we have a long way to go in terms of making breastfeeding at work as comfortable and commonplace as it needs to be in order for all women to do it without difficulty or fear of judgment. And that’s exactly why it’s so important to have role models who breastfeed on the job — women who break the mold and inspire us to be able to get it done like the badass mamas we are.
Enter Larissa Waters, a Senator from Queensland, Australia who just had her second daughter, Alia Joy, earlier this year. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Waters (who is part of Australia’s Greens party), returned to work just this past Tuesday — with her daughter in tow. And during a vote on the parliament floor, little Alia got hungry.
Without missing a beat, Waters breastfed Alia right there on the spot, like it was NBD. And it shouldn’t be, right? After all, she was merely feeding her baby, who wasn’t causing any interruption to what was happening, anyway.
But here’s why the whole thing actually was a big deal: Apparently, this is the first time a baby has ever been breastfed on the Australian parliament floor. In all of history.
Senator Waters herself took to Twitter later that day to share a photo of the profound moment.
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) May 9, 2017
“So proud that my daughter Alia is the first baby to be breastfed in the federal Parliament!” wrote Waters. “We need more #women & parents in Parli #auspol”
Can we get a slow clap for Senator Waters, please? Oh, and baby Alia, too.
Waters’s tweet has since gone viral, and with very good reason. Although we sometimes see women bring their babies to their workplace, it’s not something we see nearly enough. And a government employee breastfeeding at work? That’s a pretty unprecedented event that absolutely deserved attention.
In fact, Waters herself has been on a campaign for a while to make breastfeeding in the Australian parliament an everyday occurrence. According to The Courier Mail, although breastfeeding in the chamber has been legal since 2003, it was only since 2016 that the rules were extended so that members of the Senate could care for their babies while working — and Waters was part of the effort to pass that legislation.
Part of the reason Waters wanted those rules extended in the first place was so that more women would run for office and enter parliament. As The Courier Mail reports, Waters knows personally what a hindrance motherhood can be to working moms, unless places of work make more accommodations.
But it’s not just in parliament that Waters wants to see these changes made. “It is important we make all workplaces more family friendly, not just parliament,” she told The Courier Mail. And perhaps in a way, her historic decision to breastfeed her daughter this week on the parliament floor was symbolic of a push forward for all mothers to be allowed such freedoms.
In the U.S., we have yet to see a Senator breastfeed at work, though New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has openly discussed how hard it was to balance breastfeeding and working while a government employee. She’s also been instrumental in introducing legislation to support working moms in the Empire State.
I have a good feeling that over the coming years, we’ll see more heroines like Waters and Gillibrand, who are willing to stand up for mothers and babies everywhere. And let’s hope that Waters’ message from this past week will reverberate across the world, because working moms who breastfeed absolutely need more strong and supportive role models just like her.