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To-wen Tseng's picture
There are those moments in motherhood that are permanently etched in memory.
When I was still a working reporter serving as a staff writer at a Chinese-language newspaper’s Los Angeles Bureau, I sat on the floor in the bathroom stall between assignments to pump breast milk for my then 3-month-old son while my colleagues went to bathroom, knocked on the door and occasionally told me to hurry up. After each pumping session I moved to the office kitchen to wash the pump parts, trying to ignore my colleagues stating behind me and saying “don’t wash your dirty panties here.” 
I can still vividly recall the stressful and shameful process which is necessary because my employer offered no space for mothers to use their breast pump. So it was pumping in the bathroom stall or nothing. Not ideal to say at least. But based on a completely unscientific poll on social media, my experience was both typical and not the worst of it among breastfeeding moms returning to work after their children’s births.
There are those moments in motherhood that are permanently etched in memory.
And based on a actually scientific study, I would have been in the company of more than half of women who return to work postpartum and try to continue breastfeeding.  
This is wrong. Women pumping breast milk should not have any additional obstacle in their path. And doctors agree that breastfeeding is best for babies and moms. In fact, because of breastfeeding’s significant health benefits for both babies and mothers, it is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical authorities that mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding for at least the first year. Many mothers plan to nurse but hit seemingly insurmountable hurdles when they return to work. 
It needs to be changed. And if you are with me, please sign MomsRising’s open letter to Congress here to urge your U.S. Senators to pass the Supporting Working Mothers Act (SWMA).
This law is needed to close giant gaps in the current federal law. In spite of the requirements by the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), recent research in the journal Women’s Health Issues reported that 60% of women had no access to both break time and a private space that's not a bathroom stall for expressing milk. 
Mothers in this country have long suffered the impossible and stressful reality of hearing from public health advocates that they should breastfeed their children for health and other benefits while being denied the social infrastructure to make breastfeeding possible for all but the most privileged moms. The ACA was supposed to rectify at least one small contributor to that reality by requiring employers with at least 50 employees to offer breastfeeding moms the time to express breastmilk and a clean, private place to do it for up to one year postpartum. And SWMA would expand protections for all breastfeeding mothers who work outside of home. 
The incidence happened in my previous newsroom eventually resulted in my separation with my previous employer. I quit and sued the company for sex discrimination.
The story didn’t have to end this way if we have a fair and uniform policy put into place to cover all types of employees. At this time, federal law only requires employers to provide nursing mothers who earn their wages hourly, or non-exempt employers reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed and a private non-bathroom space. This is good still but leaves millions of salaried workers without any protections at all.
If you think the law should be extended to teachers, administrative professionals and other professional employees, please join me today in calling for passage of SWMA.

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