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Breastfeeding enthusiasts can rattle off a long list of
breastfeeding benefits: it's good for the baby, reduces the risk of SIDS, helps
moms lose weight (though that's only true for 20% of moms) and if nothing else, it's cheaper than formula. As a matter of fact, they claim, it's free!
Well, ladies, aside from the hidden costs of breastfeeding, I
would like to propose that we stop selling ourselves short by claiming that
nursing a baby is the cheaper alternative to formula. Saying that breastfeeding
is free completely undermines how much time and energy is invested my nursing
and pumping moms, not to mention the incidental costs incurred.
As a matter of fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say
that anyone who calls breastfeeding free is downright disrespectful to mothers,
and setting back the equal rights movement.
Think I'm crazy? Let's have a look at the numbers and then you
can decide for yourself.
A breastfeeding or pumping session usually takes between
10-30 minutes and can occur up to 10 times a day. That's 5 hours of unpaid
labor per day for feedings, not to mention the burping, pumping, and cleaning
and sterilizing of the pump parts and bottles. I'm going to go ahead and
average the pay of a milk cow and a Whole Foods employee (they are expert cleaners),
which would still come out around minimum wage. Now, over seven days a week
(since moms get no paid vacation or time off), and nursing moms should easily get
paid more than $20,000 per year, not including benefits or retirement.
Pay: $11 per hour
Is your baby going through a growth spurt? Sick? Or maybe
you're just traveling and baby can't sleep unless it's being held and nursed.
Well, for anyone else working overtime or late at night means more money!
So, as you can see, if nursing moms were paid even just a minimum wage (and we all know they deserve so much more!), you would never, ever call breastfeeding "free" again.
$1,000+ per month
Think overtime pay sounds good? Well, in the non-nursing
world, people don't agree to work these kinds of crazy hours unless they are on
retainer, and let's face it: every breastfeeding mom getting up for the 100th
time that night has thought about bailing on the job. You deserve a retainer!
senior care manager receives anywhere between $1-8,000 per month for their
services: feeding, administering medicine, changing diapers and clothing and
going to doctor's visits. Should you be paid more than them, or less? Their
patients are much bigger and can be meaner, but inmost instances they don't
bite or pinch your boobs or scratch your face. Tough call. You'll have to take
that one up with the boss.
There is no way to put a number on the physical toll that
ongoing sleep deprivation has on the body, but my guess is, it isn't cheap…
Perhaps we could argue for a $300-500 a month bonus to cover health insurance?
So, as you can see, if nursing moms were paid even just a
minimum wage (and we all know they deserve so much more!), you would never,
ever call breastfeeding "free" again. It's hard work, and even if there isn't a
budget for these moms, they deserve a lot more respect than they are often
What's more, those moms who can't or won't breastfeed deserve
a break. Yes, breastfeeding is great for your kid, but not everyone can afford
the financial, emotional or time costs associated with it.
If we can agree that breastfeeding is expensive, perhaps even
a luxury in this modern world where moms are expected to do everything, we
immediately level the playing fields for all mothers.
Rather than shaming those who can't afford it, by agreeing
that breastfeeding is worth a lot, we create more
opportunities for mom to take on the job, if even part-time: more support, more
nursing spaces, more Facebook groups, more media coverage, and more
history, women have proven that they can rise above any challenge, and in many
cases, do it all. So why not get paid for it? And even if payment is not an
option for this labor of love, let's demand some respect for all of the hard work that is involved.