I would have to assume that there are tons of stories about people sneaking contraband into prisons. Usually, items that come to mind are drugs, weapons or phones. Never would I have imagined that breast pumps would be one. However, according to a New York Times article they too have made their way into prison. The conspirators? Correctional nurses and officers working at the Deerfield Correctional Center in Virginia. Were they paid for their milk? No. Was the pump a cover for the real contraband? No. Then why sneak in, or “smuggle”, a breast pump? To keep up milk for their newborn babies. Why else?
Allegedly, after countless emails and phone calls to the correctional facility’s management, the women interviewed never received permission to bring in their manual pumps. Tired of waiting for confirmation, they took matters into their own hands . . . and bras. Piece by piece, sometimes with the help of more well- endowed colleagues; they snuck in their breast pumps. Two correctional nurses interviewed were Ms. Susan Van Son and Ms. Tishanta Olds. At the time of this article, both women had already moved on from their positions (presumably by choice).
Ms. Van Son battled infertility, so when she gave birth to her daughter she was determined to breastfeed. Because her daughter struggled with latching, pumping was the natural solution. Prior to Susan’s return to work, Ms. Olds (a mother of four) informed Susan of the struggle she may face. Ms. Olds would use the restroom to pump but constant interruptions made it difficult to produce milk. Women who pump must do so every few hours so Tishanta resorted to using her car (an option Susan also chose once she returned to work). However, working in a prison setting means patrol officers regularly driving through and monitoring activity. Therefore, trips to their vehicles were limited. For both women, sneaking in manual pumps seemed to be their only option.
Image courtesy of Google Images
The article goes on to provide examples of women, often in male-dominated professions, whose milk dried, who developed infections from not being able to pump and some who have gone a step further to file suits against their employers. Some may say, “Well, those women chose to work in industries that don’t cater very much to women.” So what? This is just my opinion, but I do not think women look for jobs and say to themselves, “This looks like the type of establishment that would frown on me feeding my child. Where do I sign up?” Sometimes people do not find out things about their employer until they are already there.
While the approach Ms. Van Son and Ms. Olds may seem drastic, these women faced a similar issue as many. The challenge to pump at work. Sometimes it is a lack of understanding amongst management. And sometimes it is the environment. Regardless of the reason, many women feel pinned between meeting the demands of their workplace and motherhood.
I was fortunate enough to work in jobs, surrounded by fellow moms, that understood the need to create an environment where pumping was just a part of our everyday work culture. Compared to the experiences of Susan Van Son and Tishanta Olds, my case seems more like a dream than reality. I think people will always view their jobs as a way to provide for their families. A means to put food on the table. I just find it ironic, and saddening, that those same jobs are sometimes the reason food is potentially absent from the table. In this case bottles.
About the author: Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared on Blunt Moms and will be appearing on Role Reboot and Her View From Home. When she is not writing, she is wrangling her two children and husband. To read more of her work, or to connect, visit www.shetanagain.com and Shetanagain Writes on Facebook and Instagram.