The White House and breast feeding are two words that typically don’t go together but don’t tell that to political reporter and new mom Rachel Rose Hartman.
Hartman has a new baby, and a job at the White House, so she has recently found herself breast feeding at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Hartman writes: “When I imagined my journalism career, I never pictured myself standing shirtless in a unisex bathroom in the White House. But that is precisely where I found myself in November, as a new mother of a nursing infant returning from maternity leave to cover the president.”
So what are the breast feeding conditions like at the White House?
Hartman initially chided government officials for not providing a private place to breastfeed. Back in 2010, the Obama Administrations outlined several ways to help women in the work place and one of those ways was to provide a private place to breastfeed. According to Valerie Jarrett, chair of the president’s Council on Women and Girls,“One of the most common reasons mothers cite for discontinuing breastfeeding is returning to work and not having break time or a private space to express milk.”
Jarrett cites a study that mothers who breastfed their babies for the first 6 months can provide significant health benefits and lower the risks of diabetes, obesity, asthma, and leukemia.
The Affordable Care Act also requires employers to provide a clean place to breastfeed.
The law reads:”The Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion to express breast milk at work, up until a child’s first birthday.”
But despite the White House’s intentions, Hartman was still stuck in a bathroom breastfeeding her newbornchild.
When Hartman complained to the White House press staff she was told that they were aware of the problem and looking into a solution. There were, however, several obstacles in the way. Yahoo, where Hartman works, doesn’t have an assigned chair for press meetings and definitely don’t have its own private space. There are also a lot of security procedures and journalists aren’t allowed to freely roam the building. Space is also limited at 1600 Pennsylvania and dedicated an entire room to breastfeeding would be tough.
Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents Association, eventually found a solution: The Christian Broadcasting Network and CBC/Radio-Canada agreed to let Hartman use their booth at certain times of the day for breastfeeding.
It isn’t a permanent solution but it’s one that Hartman says has changed her life.
You can read Rachel Rose Hartman’s story about breastfeeding in the White House here.