November 18, 2016
Iesha Gray called it the drought.
One month back from maternity leave, her breasts were empty. No more milk. Her baby girl at home was drinking her way through the freezer stash.
Gray was 20, a career mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who drove a truck or van in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. The drought happened, she said, because she wasn’t given time or space she found acceptable to pump breast milk.
So Gray was faced with a choice: Quit working and nurse little Daveah, or keep working and switch to formula.
Pumping – which moms do to express breast milk, often on the job – became one of many rights for women under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, or Obamacare. Employers with 50 or more workers must give moms space and time to pump. It’s unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump would eliminate this right if he gets rid of Obamacare, as he has promised to do.
Gray assumed her work would provide a place where she could pump. But on her first day back from maternity leave, she said her supervisors didn’t answer her about where she should pump.
“The first day, they give me this long route; I didn’t pump all day,” she said. “That’s just the most painful thing you can ever feel having to walk around for eight hours a day with milk swollen.”
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