Having a fussy newborn is always a struggle for new moms. Maybe they won’t breastfeed or take a bottle. Whatever way they’ll feed, you’ll take it!
But Los Angeles mom and teacher Tanya Reyes has it even harder than most. After her daughter Solana wouldn’t take a bottle, Reyes decided to nurse during her break. But to her disbelief, she was banned from breastfeeding on campus and moved outside the limits. In support, other mothers took to the streets – literally – to hold an on-going “nurse-in” outside of Metropolitan High School.
Friends say Reyes works every day to care for other children and simply wanted to nurture her own. “Tanya devised a plan to have the baby come to school with her nanny to nurse during her lunch break and after school,” says nurse-in participant and friend Jenn Sherry Parry. That feeding routine worked for over two months until Reyes was abruptly told to stop.
So, last Monday, she nursed roadside, beyond the school gate with noisy traffic and unpleasant industrial activity. The following day in solidarity, a couple of moms nursed alongside her and posted pictures to social media. By Wednesday, a local television station arrived, as did more nursing moms who didn’t even know Reyes!
“It was not her intention to do a nurse-in. Tanya was just doing what she had to do to feed her baby,” Parry explains.
Unclear about the approval to speak with media, Reyes declined Babble’s interview request but confirmed that Parry and Nicolette Morales, a mom of two and fellow teacher on maternity leave, participated in the nurse-in. “The issue for me is also about our district — which is the largest district west of the Mississippi — getting in compliance,” explains Morales, who says the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) failed to follow its own lactation accommodation policy to provide a “private space” and “uninterrupted time” with her first pregnancy. Directed to use the photocopy room, Morales was consistently interrupted by colleagues asking to use the copier.
I can totally picture her rushing to pull up her nursing bra and shuffling past freshly-printed worksheets. Many lactating moms, unfortunately, make do with awkward worksite scenarios like this (me included). Oh the embarrassment of faulty door locks and packed break room refrigerators!
I reached out to the LAUSD for some answers. The communication department says, “The District has a long-standing written policy prohibiting employees from bringing their children to the workplace, except on special occasions.” Should the mama-baby breastfeeding bond be considered a special occasion?!
One of their policies also states that “Frequent, recurring presence of visitors or family members during work hours is unsuitable, in that it detracts from the District’s goals of proficiency for all students, presents potential health and safety issues to all involved, and poses a liability to the District.” Remember, the “detraction” in this case is a mother healthily nourishing her infant, which is why Parry says enforcement of the “obligatory rule” is extreme, especially since Reyes used her unpaid time to avoid interference with students’ learning.
Looking at the Department of Labor’s accommodation requirements for employees, expressing milk is noted rather than physically breastfeeding. But why? In 2015, the State of California passed a law allowing students to express breast milk AND nurse on campus. Programs like California School Age Families Education and Pregnant Minor Schools support such breastfeeding options with onsite childcare. If students can breastfeed, why can’t staff?
Morales acknowledges that change “isn’t made overnight,” but is looking for steps to be taken to ensure appropriate worksite nursing spaces, and to allow breastfeeding with a liability waiver. I expect that many mothers would agree!
h/t: CBS Los Angeles