Letter to the Editor: Breastfeeding policy

Dear Editor:

Congratulations to the Downey Unified School District for receiving an A from the California Women’s Law Center for its policies protecting the rights of lactating students and employees.

These policies are not just an investment in the employees and students—it is an investment in their children, and in our future. Breastfeeding has been proven to contribute greatly to public health. It is the safest, most nutritious food for babies and can provide lifelong health benefits. Breastfeeding has also been proven to be a healthy choice for mothers, lowering their rates of breast cancer and other diseases. It is environmentally sustainable and is affordable for all mothers.

But breastfeeding is not something a student can pursue as hobby—after school or just on the weekends. A lactating woman must express her milk every couple of hours or she will be at risk for infection and the eventual cessation of breastfeeding. So when a teen makes the decision to breastfeed her baby, she is making a very adult decision. She is making a big commitment that is not without sacrifice. She is investing her time and energy in not only the health of her child, but also in the relationship and bond that will lead to a well-rounded and successful older child and adult. By providing the necessary accommodations, DUSD is living up to its Character Counts motto that we all see around our great city.

In just three short years, DUSD improved their grade from a ‘D’ to an ‘A.’ In DUSD today, a teenager who finds herself pregnant might choose not to have an abortion, or she might not drop out of high school, seeing that she can still possibly finish high school and be the mother she envisions herself being. It’s not an easy path, but mothers are phenomenally good multi-takers. And when it seems doable, more teen mothers will take that path.

Supporting these students is a really smart move on the part of DUSD. It is a policy to not further marginalize individuals who are already somewhat marginalized. With this new policy, DUSD benefits all of us as well.

Lana Joy Wahlquist

The author is an accredited leader with La Leche League of Downey.