Felton, DE | A teen mom in Delaware has been denied reasonable breastfeeding accommodations, a blog posting alleges, and the young woman’s own mother says that the school district has made it impossible for her daughter to continue schooling and have a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Jaielyn Belong is a sophomore, and mother to five-week-old Adrian Amir Belong. Jaielyn hopes to graduate on time, and continue breastfeeding son Adrian for the year-long period recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics.
While breastfeeding women are allowed certain accommodations under law, Jaielyn’s school nurse and others at the school seem unacquainted with basic necessary flexibility any mother requires to maintain a milk supply. The blog states:
“The nurse, a counselor and a school administrator recommended Jaielyn only breastfeed her son before and after school hours. This recommendation would not be changed regardless of whether or not a doctor’s note is able to be obtained. This would mean Jaielyn could not pump for or nurse her baby for over eight hours every weekday.”
If you have ever breastfed a baby, you are probably aware that pumping milk at reasonable intervals is necessary to avoid physical pain as well as disruptive and dangerous reduction in milk supply. Jaielyn’s mom Betty says her daughter is being bullied by the school, telling the writer:
“The school nurse called me on Thursday and told me they will not be able to accommodate my daughters need to pump or store milk during school hours. They said the electric pump is noisy and will draw attention to my daughter. Pumping milk is time consuming. They’re not even sure she’ll be pumping milk when she says so.”
“When our children go through life and make positive choices we have to follow through and do what we can to help … I’m so proud of the choices she’s made and I have to help in any way I can. I thought I was fighting a losing battle, but knew I wasn’t giving up without one.
A local leader for La Leche League (LLL), a breastfeeding advocacy group, says that Jaielyn’s ability to manage motherhood and schooling is being unnecessarily impeded by the school’s “illogical” discrimination, and Heather Felker explains:
“It seems illogical that a place cannot be found for this teen to pump. If a teacher requested an area to pump, by law one would need to be provided. The teens mother also mentioned that there is a Bayhealth clinic on site … [Jaielyn] has shown great maturity by taking responsibility for her pregnancy and now her son. She chose breastmilk as the healthiest possible start for her son, and as a cost saving measure for her family. By not supporting these choices, the school is sending a negative message.”
Indeed, it seems counterintuitive to further burden a young woman who has chosen to not only take on the challenges of young motherhood, but continue her education without interruption as well as make the optimal choice of breastfeeding her baby. It is not clear whether the district makes such accommodations for nursing teachers, but regardless of previous policy, it also seems intuitive to make the accommodations available to Jaielyn.
According to the blog, Delaware state law mandates that employers “provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Delaware law also unambiguously seems to protect Jaielyn Belong from the situation she now faces, stating clearly:
“Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a mother shall be entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation, wherein the mother is otherwise permitted.”
Hopefully, Jaielyn’s plight will highlight the discrimination and barriers faced by nursing women who are not in a position to negotiate the basic accommodations necessary to successfully breastfeed a baby.
A Facebook group has been started to support Jaielyn’s right to breastfeed her baby and continue schooling.