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February 09, 2005

Lactation Nation

There are HR policies for everything else, so why aren't there any that deal with breast-feeding?

Recently, I sent a pumping-practices survey to more than 1,000 human resources leaders who belong to two e-mail discussion groups, HRColorado and HRIllinois. I asked them for copies or descriptions of their company's policies regarding milk-pumping at work.
Here's what I got back: zilch. My queries on issues such as Internet usage policies, dress codes, and the like have yielded dozens or scores of responses. Milk, however, is a far more challenging problem, judging by the silence of my loyal pen pals.

Nothing like discussion of naked breasts in the workplace when in comes to strained silences. Many members of management are probably too petrified to address the subject at all, figuring that any conversation on the subject of mammaries is just a hop, skip and a jump away from a sexual harassment case at best, and a SEC lawsuit at worst.

"Jenkins, where's Delaney from accounting?"

"She's on the 9th floor, Sir. She's performing a pump and dump."

"And you didn't bother to stop her? Damnit, didn't we have trouble enough with the Securities Commission last year over that pump and dump thing last year?"

"But sir..."

"Don't 'But' me, Jenkins. You march right up there and tell her she's fired. I'm not going to jail for some crazy broad."

"But sir..."

"Jenkins! Goddammit! Do what I say or it's your ass too!"

"Sir! She's expressing milk from her breasts!"

"That's it, Jenkins. I don't care what a man does on his own time, but I'm not going to stand for this kind of perversion in the workplace. And you a married man, too."

"But, sir!"


Now, overweening breast hysteria aside, setting aside a room for use as a lactation area is almost certainly a good idea in terms of productivity. Breast-fed kids are healthier kids, which means that on the whole, mothers who breast feed will spend less time away from work dealing with illnesses and doctor visits, enhancing their productivity relative to the mothers who give their infants formula.

"Jenkins, where's Delaney from accounting?"

"She's on the 9th floor, sir, in the lactation room."

"Good, good. I like a woman who thinks of the company. Where's Johnson?"

"Home with her son, sir. He's got an ear infection."

"Ear infection, eh? Johnson's a formula feeder, isn't she?"

"Yes sir."

"Typical. Woman never was any good at looking at the big picture. Well, that's one decision made easier. Put Delaney in charge of the new division. Let her know as soon as she finishes her business in there."

"Yes, sir."

"You don't suppose we could ask a woman about her stance on breastfeeding during the interview process, do you, Jenkins? These damn formula feeders are killing our bottom line."

"I'll run it by Legal, sir."

"Good man, Johnson. Good man. You're married, aren't you?"

"Yes sir."

"The little woman. She a breast feeder?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good, Jenkins, excellent!. Listen, we're having a little get together at the club Saturday. I'd like you to come out, if you can. Let Delaney know too, if you would."

"Of course, sir. Have a good day, sir."

"Good man, Johnson. You'll go far in this company. See you then."

Posted by Bigwig at February 9, 2005 11:43 AM | TrackBack
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One company I worked for had an actual lounge room before the ladies room on every floor. It was used regularly by mothers.

Needless to say, it was the exception.

Posted by: Meg at February 9, 2005 06:12 PM
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