Letter to the Editor: Breastfeeding in high school

Dear Editor:

I strongly disagree with the discussions over the last few weeks about breastfeeding mothers who attend high school. The statements that have been made reveal that the writers of these letters are uninformed in many ways. There are several factors which, when understood, may incite more compassion in these individuals. 

First, you should know that around 60% of pregnant teens became pregnant as a result of sexual assault and abuse. They do not deserve to be characterized as irresponsible or promiscuous. Many of them are victims. Victims, by the way, who have chosen to not abort their babies but instead to raise them despite great obstacles. I personally admire this courageous decision. And since some of the previous commenters have spoken out against abortion in the past, I would think that they would also commend such a decision.

Second, these teen moms are doing the absolute best they can. They know that they will have to be supporting their children as a single mother, and that in order to give their babies a better life that the parent needs at least a high school diploma. 

Lastly, they also know that breastmilk is vital not only for the present health of their baby, but also for their long-term health and well-being. They choose to again take the more difficult road of pumping breastmilk for their baby to be fed by a caregiver. This takes considerably more work than the alternative. Mothers have to take the time and work to pump their milk, store it properly, maintain a supply both in their freezer and in their bodies, as well as keep themselves healthy and sober. Being a pumping mother is not for the faint-hearted.

I should also add that if a mother does not express her milk as often as her baby eats, she can become engorged and is at risk for infection. So if she is not given time out of class to pump, she can literally become sick. She may miss up to a week or more of school if this happens. 

We have laws protecting such situations in the workplace, and they same should be followed in schools. Pumping mothers are going above-and-beyond, juggling an immense amount of responsibilities that are difficult for even adults to handle. If we want to build a society of healthy and responsible people, we need to support breastfeeding mothers. If we want to reduce abortions and reduce the spread of disease, reduce the amount of childhood obesity and other related illnesses, we need to show our support for those who have the power to directly influence such issues. 

To all the teen mothers out there, thank you for breastfeeding! Nurse on!

Lana Joy Wahlquist