Folks, I'm pissed. I'm so pissed, that I have just sat down to write a quickie little blog about it right here. I'm so pissed, that I pushed my lunch aside so that I can type this out. And it's a good lunch - steak and onions. It'll wait.
I just read an article that I found from Momma Trauma about a young mother, a teenager in high school, named Jaielyn Belong. Jaielyn gave birth to a baby boy and would like to return to high school to finish her education and graduate. She is currently enrolled at Lake Forest High School, which is located in Felton, Delaware. Jaielyn is breastfeeding her son and would like to be able to pump at some point during her school day between classes. The school is denying her request, stating that the pump would be too noisy and that there is no where to store the milk. According to the nurse, the fridge is only for medicine. Hello, ass, breastmilk IS medicine. School employees told her that she'd have to nurse before school and then wait until she got home to feed him again. No pumping at school. According to the article, they won't even budge if Jaielyn brings in a doctor's note.
Please read the full article on the Momma Trauma website:
Delaware Teen Mom Denied Breastfeeding Accomodations
I personally believe that teenage mothers are a class of people that our society feels is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against. Teen mothers are treated as subhumans from the conception of their children to the birth and then beyond. They are treated as if they are stupid, classless, useless, slutty, immoral whores who are nothing but parasites and black marks on our society. I don't give two fucks what your religion says or what your morals dictate, teen mothers are still human beings and should be treated as such. This situation here is a prime example of why we have far to go in our treatment of teen mothers.
We all know that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby. We are aware of the mountain of health benefits that come with breastfeeding, both for the mother and the child. We all know there are risks to not breastfeeding. But did you know that teenage mothers are more unlikely to breastfeed than there adult counterparts? Only about half of teenage mothers will attempt to breastfeed their babies at birth, but that number drops to 19% by 6 months post partum. There are several reasons for this such as the lack of support, lack of breastfeeding education, social stigmas and - what's that? - the return to school. There has been a desire among health officials and breastfeeding professionals and advocates in this country to increase the numbers of teen mothers who breastfeed. And here we have a mother who is perfectly willing to do so, yet her school is standing in her way.
You know, one of my very first experiences as a "breastfeeding counselor" came when I was a teenager - assisting and counseling a teen mother who wanted to breastfeed. I know quite a few women who became mothers as teens and who specifically like to work with teenage moms to provide them with the education and support to successfully breastfeed their children.
Out of all the girls who will drop out of high school, one third of them do so because they become pregnant. Only 40% of teenage mothers continue on and graduate from high school. These are dismal statistics. Unacceptable. Work must be done - and is being done - to ensure that these young women can have the resources to continue their educations and graduate from high school. And, and look here, we have a young mother who wants to do just that, yet her school is setting up road blocks.
We know what Jaielyn will go through if her school succeeds in bullying her into leaving the pump at home. It means she will go 8 hours without nursing or pumping. It means she will be at an increased risk for developing plugged ducts or mastitis. By the way, a good case of mastitis can knock her off her ass and leave her sick at home - missing school! It means her milk production is at risk of dropping. Would she have to supplement? Supplement can lead to even more of a supply drop. Why should her baby miss out? We also know that babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop illness, including ear infections or colds. Yes, we all have anecdotal evidence of a formula fed baby who never gets sick or a breastfed baby who gets repeat ear infections. However, the evidence is clear that breastfed babies are less likely to become sick. So, if we increase her baby's chances of getting sick, it means Jaielyn will have to stay home to tend to her baby and make doctor visits. More missed school. How is that fair to Jaielyn? How is that fair to her little boy?
The school says she might get bullied or teased if allowed to pump. Are you out of your goddamned mind? Newsflash: you are supposed to protect the bullied, not the bully. How about not tolerating bullying in your school? How about teaching your students that crap like that will not be allowed? Way to blame the victim. Perhaps we should send them some information on anti-bullying school policies and bring them up to 2013.
This is discrimination. This is a civil rights issue. This is a human rights issue. Jaielyn has rights and so does her baby. Just because she is a teen mom doesn't mean she is any less capable of making the best decisions she can for her child. It doesn't mean she should be treated like she is the inconvenience. Her school should be thrilled that she wants to return. Maybe there is a tax break in it for them. :::eyeroll::: As for the pumps beinig disturbing to her peers. Please, as if there isn't a location anywhere in the school where she can pump in relative privacy. And, have you been to a high school? There is plenty of noise to be had. A mother pumping for her child should be among the least of their concerns.
She should not have to wait a year to return to school. She should not have to find a new school. She should not have to be homeschooled. This mother has chosen to return to her school and the school needs to buck up and let her pump. I promise them, it won't ruin the precious young psyches of the other students. If anything, it'll show them what responsibility looks like.
If you'd like to take action, please visit the Momma Trauma blog linked above and stay updated on the situation. Pass that link around to everyone. Facebook it. Tweet it. You can call the school and leave messages. You can also email the school.
School nurse: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean of Students: email@example.com
Assistant Principal: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Lake Forest High School
Supposedly, the high school had a Facebook page that has now been taken down. I guess thy couldn't handle to comments.
If you are planning to contact the school, I urge you to remain respectful. If we get nasty, sarcastic and rude with them it will just push them away. This is a frustrating situation from every angle, but we have to remain calm in reasonable when in contact with these folks. Otherwise, they will brush us off as "crazy hippies" and progress won't be made. There is a chance to make some positive change here, let's not ruin it with anger. I'm pissed about this, you're pissed about this and lots of other people on the internetz are pissed about this. That is more than understandable and it's fine to vent on our pages, twitter and Facebook. It's so frustrating that we are still fighting these fights in 2013. However, any contact with representatives of the school should be courteous and respectful.
UPDATE: The Superintendent wrote his own blog post regarding this situation, which you can find here. He states that students may pump at school, though there are no specific accommodations (such as a designated room) and that students are responsible for their own cooler and storage. He also notes that the district has an alternative school where teen parents may bring their children and breastfeed or pump there. He notes that a teen mother who chooses to leave the alternative school and return to Lake Forest, "also chooses to leave behind a certain level of support." While I am happy to see that there is a possibility she can pump at school, that last comment about choosing to leave behind a level of support is a bit harsh. It shows that they really aren't interested in being helpful to this new mother. As I said earlier in the blog, there are alternatives to this school. She can do online charter, homeschooling or she can attend this alternative school. Personally, I would rather attend a school where I can bring my baby and remain all attached and in contact. That would be my choice. It's not up to me to make the choice for Jaielyn, however. It is up to no one but Jaielyn herself - and she has chosen to return to the regular high school. She should be supported in that choice and they shouldn't being throwing down roadblocks that would make it more difficult for her.
My sources for teen breastfeeding rates and teen mother drop out rates:
Written while nursing my sleepy little girl....