Breast-Feeding Prompts Bipartisan Moment

Filed under: Breast-Feeding, Opinions

My first night in Washington, D.C., for my husband Sean's Congressional Freshman Orientation, involved a lovely reception and dinner in Statuary Hall. It also involved a cocktail dress that made it impossible for me to nurse my 7-month-old baby.

As any other resourceful mom would do, I looked for a helpful, female face among the staffers working that night and inquired about a bathroom with a chair. I was escorted to a ladies room right off of Minority Speaker John Boehner's office and told that I could keep the key to the bathroom with me to ensure that no one else would enter and find me half-dressed and nursing.

With her tummy full, my contented MariaVictoria was a perfect baby during the dinner that followed her mama-made, liquid hors d'oeuvres.

The next day, we attended a series of lectures and forums on topics ranging from ethics and staff issues to how to best handle the grueling travel schedule and the stresses it places on families. Though I had my "hooter-hider" with me, I decided that MariaVictoria and I could use some alone time, so I set out to find the nearest bathroom with a chair. Luckily, upon hearing my request, a lovely staffer and fellow mom escorted me to a designated nursing room in the Capitol.

Deep in the bowels of the building was a quiet, comfortable room with a small refrigerator, TV and a divider that provided privacy for two nursing or pumping moms. Each station had a comfortable chair, a table with tissues and sanitizing products and a professional-quality pump so moms need only bring their own bottles (brilliant!).

Shortly after I entered, another mom did, too. She graciously held my baby until I was situated and then took her place on the other side of the divider to pump. We did what women do -- chatted as we went about our business. As it turned out, this lovely young woman works for Nancy Pelosi and I learned that her boss was pivotal in getting the room set up.

Before the room existed, nursing moms brought their own pumps and extension cords and would lock themselves in bathroom stalls and other places in search of an electrical outlet and a little privacy. Now, thanks to Pelosi, moms have a clean, private space to pump or nurse.

Fellow nursing moms on Capitol Hill sometimes call each other to schedule their nursing times together so they can catch up and bond while they pump. I also learned that moms touring the Capitol who inquire about nursing facilities are escorted through the maze of offices and into this serene little room. And why not? It is, after all, the People's House.

That evening, Sean and I were invited to a reception in Pelosi's office. The food was divine and the Speaker worked the room in a beautiful, deep red pant suit. As I had my picture taken with the mother of five and grandmother of seven, I took time to thank her for helping make the nursing/pumping room possible. Not every mom can or wants to nurse, but for those working moms and visitors to the Capitol who believe that "breast is best," the room is not only a blessing, it's an affirmation that their effort to nourish their child is valued. I told her it took a woman to recognize this need and meet it.

The Speaker is as liberal as I am conservative and we don't agree on much, but some issues truly are bipartisan.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.