In an unprecedented move, a County jail in New Mexico is providing accommodations for a breastfeeding mother to pump her breasts every few hours and have the product picked up by a family member for her four month old daughter. While there have been a few cases in the past of breast pump use allowed for short term detainees, this is the first case to my knowledge of a jail allowing for long term pumping accommodation (it appears mom is serving a possible five year sentence). Check out this video:
I am particularly impressed by the Detention Center Director Joe Sprunk. What he calls a "no brainer" is forbidden at nearly all detention facilities in the U.S. While I see some criticism of the Detention Center for not already having a policy in place, I say Joe Sprunk deserves some thanks. He is planning on putting a breast pump policy in place that will put a burden on the facility and for which he is under no current legal obligation.
Engorged inmates unquestionably have a medical issue, though most facilities do not treat the possibility of mastitis and other infection from engorgement to be an urgent medical issue. In the case where the facility acknowledges an issue, the best the inmate generally can receive is the ability to "pump and dump" until her supply dries up.
I say, let's sent some lactation love to Taos County Detention Center Director Joe Sprunk. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you Joe Sprunk!
UPDATE: Best for Babes reports: "The father reports that his wife has been transferred out of county jail and into a womans correctional facility in Grants, NM where he will begin the process of advocating for his wife all over again." A transfer to a state facility is consistent with the length of her sentence.
Continuing (belatedly) the series in which I answer the ten questions posted at Blue Milk concerning what a feminist mother looks like. Today is Part 3. You can see Part 1here and Part 2here. Since Blue Milk's post went up in 2007 and I have answered the questions over two years, my answers may be a bit skewed. See something inconsistent or that make you go "huh??," ask me about it. This is always on my mind.
9. If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?
This has forced me to do more difficult intellectual work concerning theories of difference. I hope I would have come to this place anyway but exclusive and extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing mean that my relationship with my children is different from their father's who can not breastfeed and with whom they wish to do less of all of these other things. The acts of attachment parenting have made me look at what equality means and redefine it in a more nuanced way. "Equal" does not mean "exactly the same." One can not measure the work of two parents as one might flour on a scale. If the other parent of my children were also female and were also breastfeeding, perhaps coming to equity would be a simpler task.
Also, Second Wave Feminism assumes my equality depends on my ability to earn the same wage as men. It does not value parenting as it does waged labor. I don't think this devaluing of unwaged work is feminist. It is capitalist and feminism does not need to be capitalist. True equality and true feminism values my unwaged parenting as it would my waged lawyering.
10. Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given
Feminism has given mothers more than I could possibly list. It has given mothers the legal right totheir children. Prior to feminism, under common law men owned children and had the right to dictate what happened to them. "Father's Rights Movement" rhetoric aside, they don't have a clue how good they had it. Feminism gave mothers the vote. Feminism gave mother legal recourse if they are raped by their husbands. Feminism gave mothers greater ability to force the fathers of their children to provide financial support even if the mother is not married to the father.
Back in the 1990s, I had more breast milk than I could handle. I knew then and know now that many women, due largely to the circumstances of their lives and not their biology, are not able to produce all the milk their children need. And there are breastfeeding people (some cis-female and some not) who have biological reasons why they can't produce enough breast milk for their children.
Well, that is where people like me can come in.
By the second trimester of my first pregnancy, my perfectly happy "Barely B" cups had become G cups. I didn't know there were G cups and never had desired to own them. When my first son was born, I pumped in the fruitless hope that he would drink breast milk from a bottle while I was in court. He had other ideas. Then I pumped for comfort because I was constantly engorged. I could pump eight ounces in five minutes, switch bottles, and pump another eight ounces. But my son would have none of it. He wanted breasts or nothing.
Pretty soon I had a freezer stocked full of pumped breast milk my son wouldn't drink. So, after some research, I contacted HMBANA in the hope of finding a good home for my gallons of milk. But I was also on an SSRI at the time – one then and now considered entirely safe for breastfeeding children. The HMBANA policy, I was told then, was that no milk donations would be accepted if the donor was on any medications whatsoever. So HMBANA would not accept my milk.
When son number two was born, not only did I have over supply but overactive let-down. That meant my first let-down would hit the back of my son's throat with such force it triggered his gag reflex and he chomped down in an attempt to slow the flow. There are only so many times a baby, affectionately nicknamed "Moose" for his ten pound birth weight and trap-like mandibles, can chomp on your nipples before something must be done. That something was pumping before each feed so that my let-down was not so fast. And that meant more gallons of breast milk in my freezer.
There were no informal milk-sharing networks on the Internet in the nineties. Or if there were, I didn't know about them. So I was forced to pour gallon after gallon of breast milk down the drain.
Menschheit is a difficult word to translate. Literally it is the German noun meaning "humanity" or "mankind," but I grew up hearing it used in Yiddish to describe a quality – the quality of acting like a real human being. This, in Yiddish, is considered a good thing. Giving my abundant excess breast milk to a baby who needed it seemed to me to be the most basic menschheit. It is what a person does if she is really human.
It made me incredibly sad that I couldn't find a home for my breast milk. And it makes me very happy that today people with excess milk can find other people who need milk and make the exchange. This is menschheit; it was what humans do for one another.
Following is a post written by economist and breastfeeding expert James Akre about the safety and necessity of milk-sharing. It was originally published by baby gooroo on June 28th and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Akre and baby gooroo:
Since pre-history, mothers in need of human milk have relied on other mothers in their family and community with milk to spare and share. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the second-best feeding option, after breastfeeding, is breast milk expressed by a child’s own mother, followed by milk from a healthy wet-nurse or from a human-milk bank.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) acknowledges that its not-for-profit member banks—two in Canada and 11 in the U.S. serving a total population approaching 350 million — cannot satisfy even a quarter of the current demand for banked milk. Under the circumstances HMBANA rightly gives priority to sick and premature babies. But at $3–$6 an ounce, a week’s supply could cost as much as $750—something few parents can afford to pay even if banked milk were available.
“A growing awareness of the importance of breast milk for babies has accelerated the demand for human milk at a time when processed donor milk is scarce and costly,” says Amy Spangler, president of baby gooroo. “Intent on giving their babies what every baby needs most, mothers are bypassing milk banks and going directly to the supplier—other breastfeeding mothers with milk to spare.”
The Milk-Sharing Debate
With the help of social media, mothers are increasingly aware that milk-sharing is a viable option for mothers who can’t breastfeed or obtain banked milk. Mothers of healthy babies who need milk are linking with other mothers willing to donate milk via chapters of two popular Facebook-based communities—Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies—operating in more than 50 countries.
These online communities allow donor mothers to share their milk, safely and ethically, in the belief that they and recipient mothers are capable of weighing the inherent benefits and risks and making informed decisions. This altruistic commerce-free exchange is grounded in the principle that all who are involved in milk sharing take full responsibility for their actions and subsequent outcomes.
However, the position staked out by some public health authorities, notably in Canada, France, Israel, and the U.S., including the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics is clear: Don’t do it!
Some in the health and medical establishment regard internet-based sharing as a threat both to their authority and to public health. They reject a system that operates outside their influence, that can’t be regulated, and where mothers alone exercise control. Some especially anxious observers go so far as to allege that mother-to-mother milk sharing undermines the ability of the few under-provisioned human-milk banks to meet the urgent needs of sick and preterm babies, by further reducing potential milk donations.
It should be noted that donor mothers have been breastfeeding their own children. With few exceptions, these mothers and their children are being followed closely by health care professionals with all that this implies for health status monitoring; and they are ready to discuss their lifestyle and disclose their medical records before sharing their milk. And yet health authorities are contending that mother-to-mother milk sharing is fundamentally riskier than feeding infant formula, and that it’s impossible for mothers, acting on their own, to minimize health risks.
Those in favor of milk sharing disagree.
Weighing and Managing Relative Risk
Milk banks function according to a strict medical model where regulations, rules, and protocol determine what is done, when, and for whom. Babies receiving banked donor milk are virtually always sick and hospitalized; healthy children seldom qualify for access to the limited amount of banked milk. Health professionals prescribe milk for the sickest, neediest, and most fragile babies, who are frequently immuno-compromised and risk death.
In addition, the screening criteria that milk banks typically apply disqualify many otherwise healthy women who might be willing to donate their milk. Exclusion criteria include previous residence in the UK (due to possible infection with mad cow disease), regular consumption of caffeinated beverages, a baby older than 6 months of age, and a small amount of available milk.
In contrast, milk sharing takes place in the community where interpersonal contact plays a significant role. Typically, the personalities and values of those involved are largely responsible for influencing decisions; the children concerned are healthy; and mothers are motivated by a heightened awareness of the importance of human milk for human babies and a desire to contribute to the common good.
There are risks associated with milk sharing just as there are with feeding babies formula.
It is thus a question of weighing and managing relative risk, minimizing potential harm, and maximizing benefit. Rather than resisting and dismissing milk sharing, the constructive approach would be for health authorities and health care professionals to engage with mothers in ways that help make the practice as safe as possible, such as providing reliable information on donor screening, milk collection, storage, pasteurization, and feeding practices, and expediting voluntary sharing of medical records.
There are encouraging signs of a more nuanced attitude among health professionals. For example, based on their survey of more than 400 health professionals, two researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in 2010 concluded that those knowledgeable about breastfeeding overwhelmingly support wet-nursing and sharing of unpasteurized human milk. The majority of those surveyed recommended that donors should be screened like blood donors, and should be instructed on safe milk handling and storage techniques. Although health professionals view all infants as possible candidates for unpasteurized donor human milk, concerns remain about safety and social problems with wet-nursing and milk sharing. Lastly, survey participants agreed that professional recommendations should be developed to optimize safety and acceptance of wet-nursing and human-milk sharing.
What the Milk-sharing Community Advises
The four pillars to support the safe sharing of breast milk from Eats on Feets stress:
Informed Choice — Mothers are responsible for understanding the options, including the risks and benefits, of all infant and child feeding methods.
Donor Screening — Mothers can communicate with donors by asking questions about their health and lifestyle, and by requesting blood screening test results.
Safe Handling — Mothers and donors should handle milk with clean hands and equipment and use proper storage methods.
Home pasteurization — If in doubt, mothers can pasteurize milk at home: on the stovetop in order to inactivate HIV; or using a single bottle pasteurizer that performs the Holder method of pasteurization.
Meanwhile, Human Milk 4 Human Babies stresses that, “It is in the spirit of informed choice that milk sharing on these [Internet] pages will occur, and all people posting here will take complete responsibility for the outcome of milk sharing.” It also reminds mothers that:
Full Disclosure Reduces Risk
Suggested points of discussion can include medications, alcohol and drug use. In many countries, testing for infectious diseases is done during routine prenatal/antenatal care. You may be able to consult a health care provider to obtain further testing if desired. You can ask for copies of those test results. If you cannot get a complete picture of the health of your donor, one option is to look into at-home pasteurization.
Mother-to-mother human-milk sharing is here to stay. Though technology has transformed the practice, it remains fundamentally identical to what mothers of good will have been doing since pre-history on behalf of other mothers and their babies.
Not-for-profit human-milk banks and commerce-free mother-to-mother milk sharing can and should operate on parallel non-competitive tracks. They are complementary, not antagonistic. Indeed, there is significant untapped potential for both systems to play mutually supportive roles in pursuit of a single common objective—helping to ensure that no babies are denied their nutritional birthright.
Many many thanks to Trevor at Milk Junkies for kicking my tush so I would participate in this important blog carnival.
Only three U.S. states have no public breastfeeding law – West Virginia, Idaho and Nebraska. Unfortunately the majority of state public breastfeeding laws don't do a particularly good job of stopping harassment of women who breastfeed in public (this is where I tell you again to go read my feature in Mothering magazine called Lactation and the Law, remind you that "a right without a remedy is no right at all," and tell you I have an update feature on U.S. breastfeeding law coming out in Mothering in probably the May/June issue).
Section 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
Introduced by State Senator Annette Dubas, it does not appear this bill, if passed, would confer any right, enforceable or otherwise. As written, this is a permission law. Women may breastfeeding in public and, it seems, other people may interfere with her ability to do that by telling her to leave or cover up. And it doesn't appear there is anything the nursing woman would be able to do about it.
Since breastfeeding in public is not currently illegal in Nebraska, one must wonder why women need permission. They don't. They need protection. And this bill doesn't give protection.
Senator Dubas may not understand this is how public breastfeeding laws work. And it may be helpful if Nebraskans tell her what kind of public breastfeeding law Nebraska really needs.
Are you a Nebraskan? Have you nursed in public? Can you contact Senator Dubas, the bill's co-sponsors and your own state senator and let them know Nebraska needs a public breastfeeding law that will really protect a right to breastfeed in public?
West Virginia is one of only three U.S. states (along with Nebraska and Idaho) that has no law whatsoever protecting breastfeeding. So I was glad to read that this month not one but two bills were introduced in the West Virginia Senate concerning breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, one of the bills could result in a law that helps breastfeeding mothers and the other … well, not so much.
Senate Bill Number 82, a public breastfeeding bill, needs some work. The bill has a "note" attached to it that is not actually part of the law. It states:
The purpose of this bill is to declare a child's right to nurse and making a statement by the Legislature that nursing in a public place is socially acceptable.
I know this looks good (other than the awkward wording and visceral response I have to a statement that nursing in public is "socially acceptable" – just makes me want to scream "I don't give a damn if it is socially acceptable!"). Breastfeeding advocates love the idea of a child having a right to nurse. I love it too but it is problematic. Why? Because adults have protected civil rights in the U.S. and children, generally speaking, do not. So the U.S. legal system as it is renders the note empty.
But remember, this is not actually part of what the law would say if it passes. What the law would say is:
ARTICLE 1. STATE PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM.
§16-1-19. Child's right to nurse; location where permitted; right protected.
(a) The Legislature finds that breast feeding is an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health.
(b) A mother may breast feed a child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be.
Again, looks good right? But if you have read my other writing on the practical impact of public breastfeeding law, you will know what is wrong with this bill. If a store owner tells a woman she must leave because he doesn't allow breastfeeding in his store or says only women who cover up can breastfeed, what can the mother legally do? Nothing. This bill contains no mechanism to enforce any "right," either of a child or of the mother. And, repeat after me, "a right without a remedy is no right at all."
So what can you do if you are in West Virginia? Have a look at this interview with state Senator Dan Foster, one of the sponsors of both of these bills. He gets it. He understands the importance of breastfeeding, both the health benefits and the economic benefits to the state.
According to this report, Foster anticipates having more difficulty getting the public breastfeeding bill passed than the bill disqualifying breastfeeding women from jury duty. The news report also erroneously states that women would be given a choice of pump accommodations on jury duty. That is actually not in the bill and should be.
So if you are in West Virginia, contact state Senator Dan Foster and tell him what you think of these bills. Let him know similar public breastfeeding laws in other states leave women unprotected because they have no enforcement mechanism. If he says he doesn't think he can get such a bill passed, pledge your support for a strong law protecting a civil right to breastfeed in public. Tell him you are willing to make phone calls to other state Senators and help him get a strong bill passed.
I got a fundraising e-mail from Amnesty International the other day. It was from a celebrity, as so many non-profit fundraising e-mails are. But this one really made me stop and look. It was from actor Patrick Stewart and it was about supporting Amnesty International's campaign concerning violence against women. He wrote:
I know too much about violence against women – as a child I watched in terror as my mother was abused by an angry and unhappy man who could not control his emotions, nor his hands.
Amnesty was instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 – signed into law by President Obama in July. This law begins to reverse the alarming rate of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women. Survivors of sexual assault finally stand a real chance of getting a police response, a rape kit and the opportunity to see their case prosecuted.
Amnesty is also a driving force behind the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which aims to revolutionize the way U.S. foreign policy confronts abuses like domestic violence, rape, honor killings and human trafficking worldwide. If passed, IVAWA will support measures to prevent violence, protect survivors and bring perpetrators to justice.
I knew this about Amnesty International but I didn't know this about Patrick Stewart. So I did some research and came across this powerful video.
As someone who grew up in a home much like Stewart's, a good bit of this resonates with me. The first time I dialed 911, I was ten years old. I watched in fury as one police officer after another refused to arrest my step-father. He was walked around the block. He was believed when he said my mother open wounds were the result of a fall. Not only was my step-father never sanctioned in any way for beating my mother, no police officer ever called an ambulance or offered to help her get medical care. As a ten, eleven, twelve year old, it was my job to mop up the blood. And there was a lot of blood. Night after night.
The neighbors knew, of course, but no one helped. I was never even offered a safe place to stay for the night as we waiting in fear for my step-father to bang on the door.
As an adult, when I was Litigation Coordinator at the Women Against Abuse Legal Center in Philadelphia in the early 1990s, I found that not much had changed since I argued with New York City police officers in the 1970s. My clients were accused of provoking the men who broke their arms. My clients lost their children to protective services because there was violence in the home but I could not get protective orders enforced that would keep abusers out of the home. And one day I got a call from a priest who ran an in-patient drug rehab program. He wanted to talk to me about a man in his facility. The man was distraught to discover his wife had filed for a protective order against him. The priest told me he thought the man was a good man. That he wasn't dangerous. That I should help him resolve this without going to court. He put the man on the phone weeping bitterly about losing his family and never having hit her. I told them when the next court date was and that he could make his arguments there. The priest thought me heartless.
Indeed I did make a huge mistake that day. A fatal mistake. I did not confirm whether the man was free to leave the facility if he wanted. If I had known, I would have called the client immediately to report the conversation. I would have, and should have, warned her. But I didn't. And within a few hours of that phone call, the man left rehab, went home, and stabbed his wife twelve times in front of their two toddlers. I will live forever knowing that maybe, just maybe, I could have saved her life.
The violence I and Patrick Stewart saw as a child, and that I saw as a lawyer, continues today. The law has changed significantly in most places in the U.S. but enforcement is still woefully inadequate. Women who defend themselves end up going to prison while their abusers are still walked around the block.
Q. In any earlier interview you said you hadn't received an apology from the TSA but the TSA claims you accepted an apology from it. Did you receive an apology from the TSA?
A. In March of this year, TSA sent me a statement. It stated that they were responding to my report that on “numerous occasions [I was] urged to put the breast milk through the x-ray machine and [was] subjected to additional screening.” They stated that the “screening workforce [had] been briefed regarding this situation.” The letter also stated that it was their “understanding that…the issue has been resolved” and they “extend [their] sincere apologies to [me] for the discomfort and inconvenience [I] experienced during the screening process.” The letter concluded by stating that TSA “appreciate[d] that [I] took the time to share [my] concerns with [them].” Of course, the complaint that I sent over to TSA on 2/2/10 addressed many important issues this letter did not acknowledge at all including being retaliated against, harassed, humiliated, degraded, threatened with arrest, held in security for an hour, among other things. Frankly, I disregarded this letter from TSA in March as a standard form letter they would issue to any complaint and did not view it as an apology for what happened on 2/1/10.
Q. The TSA states in its blog response: "The passenger has flown since these events occurred and has provided TSA a written confirmation that she no longer experiences issues." Is this true?
A. The following week (2/9/10), I was ‘shadowed’ by a TSA authority assigned to me by Phoenix Airport to see what I go through each week. As soon as I asked for an alternate screening, I was told to put the milk through the x-ray machine. The TSA authority had to immediately make herself known to the TSA agent and said to give me an alternate screening. It was clear that any briefing or training that had been done was futile. In the weeks following that, after speaking with a Phoenix TSA customer service manager, I traveled out of a completely different gate. I didn’t experience any more harassment or retaliation thereafter. After a few more weeks, I resumed travel out of my original gate mindful never to encounter the four or five agents I had dealt with on 2/1/10. If there was a choice between two lines, I would pick the one with agents that were not part of the incident. I resumed travel out of my original gate fearful that I would encounter the same agents as on 2/1/10. I literally would start sweating wondering who I would encounter and how I would be treated.
On 4/22/10, after one of the final trips I took with breast milk, I emailed the Phoenix TSA customer service manager. I wanted to make sure he knew that every week since 2/1/10, I had been instructed to place the milk through x-ray and had to ask again for an alternate screening…every single time. I brought this to his attention so he knew the agents still had no knowledge or, possibly, no regard for the breast milk screening rules. The response back to me was they were okay with that so long as, at some point, the agents remembered that my request [for alternate screening] was allowed.
Q. How do you think the TSA should have responded to your complaint and how did its response fall short?
A. My attorneys have advised this I do not address specifically how the TSA should have responded. It may jeopardize my current tort claim against them, especially if they try to limit my relief to what I put in this response. After we exhaust all administrative remedies, we will file a lawsuit in federal court that addresses exactly what should have been done by the TSA.
What do you think about how the TSA has responded to Stacey Armato? Is the TSA "apology" and a "refresher" to TSA staff enough?
We extend our sincere apologies to any passenger who may have experienced discomfort and inconvenience during the screening process.
So is this directed at Stacey Armato whose video is being discussed or just airline passengers generally? And if they are talking about Armato, are they saying she may have experienced discomfort and inconvenience? Are we really in doubt on this point?
Well, actually maybe not. The TSA Blog's "Blogger Bob" also writes:
We acknowledge this particular passenger experienced an out of the ordinary delay, and have worked with our officers to ensure we proceed with expediency in screening situations similar to this.
So the TSA acknowledges something happened that should not have happened. And what do they tell us about what happened to the agents involved?
After the investigation, the officers received refresher training for the visual inspection of breast milk (an infrequently requested procedure).
Really?? How about a refresher course on retaliation and false imprisonment?
There is something Blogger Bob writes that may raises some questions for those of you who have read my previous posts about Stacey Armato's visit to the TSA plastic detention booth in Arizona here and here. And that is:
TSA investigated the matter and sent a letter of apology to the passenger in March of this year. The passenger has flown since these events occurred and has provided TSA a written confirmation that she no longer experiences issues.
Armato has said she did not receive an apology, that she continued to see the same crew at the same gate as she made her weekly flight back from Phoenix to L.A., and she is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the TSA for the damages she suffered on February 1st when she was detained. So what does she have to say about the TSA response to her video? Hang in there. Armato's response will be posted here shortly.
Please feel free to leave a comment at The TSA Blog with your feelings about the TSA response to the video in which Armato is detained for asking her pumped breast milk go through "alternate" screening.
And leave a comment here with your thoughts. How do you feel about the TSA response posted on its blog?
Was a "refresher" enough? Should there have been a more severe sanction for the TSA staff? How do you feel about how the TSA is responding to the complaints of flyers?
Take note also that in The TSA Blog post about Armato, there is a link which we are encouraged to use to share our experiences with the TSA. I filed a formal complaint with the TSA on November 22nd after my teenage sons were separated from me without warning while going through a TSA security checkpoint at Logan Airport in Boston. Other than an acknowledgment that my complaint was received, I have received nothing from the TSA in response to my complaint.
So why is the TSA encouraging people to communicate with it if it does not respond meaningfully to complaints?
[UPDATE: Within seconds of publishing this post, I received an email from TSA customer service in Boston restating my complaint and apologizing for any "discomfort." I have replied asking again some more specific questions concerning TSA policy on screening families traveling together. Another post coming on that point.]