White House Breast Feeding Is Hard to Practice, Reporter Finds

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 11:36 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Even though President Barack Obama's new health care law guaranteed that nursing mothers would be provided with a private lactation area, a reporter assigned to the White House says when she went back to work there she was relegated to a unisex restroom to pump on the job.

In a first-person account of her struggles as a working mother who breastfeeds, Yahoo's Rachel Rose Hartman explained how she fought for better conditions for women returning to work after having a child. When she started at the White House in November a few months after giving birth, Hartman claims she was forced to pump in a restroom.

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"Neither of the two single-stall restrooms had a chair or a place to sit other than a lid-less toilet seat, which was the first disappointment," Hartman wrote on Yahoo's political site, The Ticket. "I briefly thought about perching on the edge of the toilet seat but decided instead to stand in the corner. For 15 minutes I stood attached to a loudly honking pump, trying not to think about how clean the place was nor what was happening in the noisy press lunch area on the other side of the door."

In talking to other women at the White House, Hartman discovered she was not alone. Though some employees were able to pump successfully in makeshift booths, others had to give up nursing entirely. Women requesting pumping booths were either given the bureaucratic runaround, or their questions just went completely unanswered, Hartman said.

She finally took her gripes to the White House Correspondents Association, the body responsible for almost everything that happens within the press workplace. On Jan. 25, the WHCA arranged an agreement that allowed nursing mothers to use the Christian Broadcasting Network and CBC/Radio-Canada radio booths to pump.

"It has changed my life," Hartman wrote of the new setup.

Though it took nearly two months, Hartman credits White House press secretary Jamie Smith for her help in securing a private area for employees who are nursing.

"The White House is deeply committed to ensuring nursing mothers have the space and resources they need," Smith said in a belated statement. "With the leadership of the White House Correspondents Association, Executive Office of the President staff worked to develop a solution for reporters who are covering the White House and we continue to explore additional options on campus as well."

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Related stories:

The Truth Behind the Breastfeeding Brouhaha

Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In' Lands Her Time Cover

Ann Romney Defends Her Role As Stay At Home Mom

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