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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breastfeeding and jury duty

Only twelve states exempt breastfeeding women from jury
I live in New York State and have been summoned for the dreaded jury duty twice. Both times, I panicked - not because I wanted to shirk my public duty, but because I was the sole care provider for a breastfed infant. I lived hours away from family, had some neighbors - but they either worked or had their own kids to care for. What was I going to do?

Thankfully I was exempted. Maybe they think I'm still breeding, because they haven't called me back (perhaps I'll jinx myself by saying this).

Unfortunately this Missouri mom wasn't so lucky - her state does not have a breastfeeding exemption, and the judge gave her two options when she showed up in court holding her seven-month-old son: put him in childcare or bring someone with you to watch him while you sit in court.

The judge apparently said she could take breaks to pump (and someone else said 'to feed' the baby but these are two entirely different things), but I don't see how this would help her if her child refuses to take a bottle. I'm also curious where she would be allowed to pump: a judge's posh quarters, or the nasty public bathroom down the hall? Hmm... sounds like a tempting offer.

Only twelve states exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. This is pathetic. And while Trickle's state recognizes 'undue physical or extreme financial hardship' as a reason to excuse someone, I'm almost sensing here that the court thinks that because she's a stay at home mom with presumably no income to lose, that there's therefore nothing lost because she's not earning a paycheck from a "real job."

Judge Marco Roldan, who is presiding over the case, said in the past he's exempted potential jurors because of a death in the family (did they provide a death certificate? *eyeroll*) or teachers who were scheduled to give mid-term exams. Seriously? You're joking, right? 

Of course, like any other mothering/childbirth/pregnancy/breastfeeding topic, it comes with no shortage of public outcry, usually from people who understand little about the mechanics of the subject. So as a former breastfeeding mother who has spent ... let's see.... roughly 6 1/2 years of her life nursing a child of varying ages, I can say that it's definitely not easy, especially when there are ridiculous limitations like this creating even more roadblocks to a successful breastfeeding relationship.

When you realize how engrained infant formula has become for decades - since probably the 1940s and 50s - it's not a wonder that many people just don't get it or even understand what the norm is for a breastfed baby. And this being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all, let's not forget that recent studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce cancer rates - yet we put up more hurdles that discourage or inhibit a mother's ability to nurse her child.

Many moms, myself included, cannot pump. It's not a sign that something is wrong with you; it's totally normal to be able to successfully breastfeed a baby but be able to pump next to nothing, even with a good pump. It doesn't matter anyway if the child refuses the bottle; some mothers try countless nipples (and they do come in a myriad of shapes and sizes) with no luck.

As far as childcare, when you're a full-time stay at home mom, you probably feel there are few reasons to really need it. I still don't have a regular babysitter whom I trust not to text the entire time she's watching my kids, and mine are 9, 7 and 4. I live hours away from family members, and many of the moms I know are either working by now or have kids of their own to watch; I cannot imagine handing off my baby to them for several hours a day for the duration of a trial (which can either be short and sweet or drag on for weeks, if not months). If you're paying for childcare, usually you have to agree to it long-term, and it can be hard to find one that will agree to short-term care. And of course, daycare is extremely expensive to boot.

The judge's other option was to bring someone with her to court so she could nurse the baby on breaks.  I hope she has really, reeeally good friends, because I personally know no one who would've been willing or even able to do this for me. Again, I'm sure many, if not most, of Trickle's friends either have infants of their own to care for or, if they don't, are working. Even if she could find someone, are they going to hang out all day wandering the courthouse, waiting for the next feeding? Perhaps set up a Pack-n-Play on the front lawn? Would she have to endure more financial hardship by providing additional monies for gas and activities if the babysitter decides to drive all over town day after day keeping baby occupied?

It all seems ridiculous and overly complicated when it doesn't really need to be: just exempt the breastfeeding mother.

More reading:
Jury duty is sometimes a trial for nursing moms - Best for Babes