Teachers in Northeast Ohio encounter problems while trying to breastfeed at school

Posted at 7:51 AM, Sep 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-19 17:03:54-04

Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is a very personal decision that every expectant mother will face.

With school back in session, teachers who are new moms are facing a difficult choice.The struggle to find a space to breastfeed is a reality for teachers who are new moms.

Federal law states moms must be given time to pump at work and be given adequate space to do so.

While it doesn't specify a certain type of space, the law states that it has to be a space other than a bathroom.

Tammy Heldman, who is a teacher at Noble Elementary in Cleveland Heights, is currently on maternity leave with her second baby.

"You want to be pumping as many times as your baby is eating during the day," Heldman said.

She continued to breastfeed her firstborn when she went back to school and found it was a mostly positive experience.

A positive experience that mom and Noble Elementary Principal Rachael Coleman says is important to her. “If you're an administrator already have those things put in place for that teacher and make sure it’s a space someone would actually want to sit in and do that it shouldn't be a broom closet.”

Though Heldman’s experience was mainly positive, it did present challenges when it came to the space she was expected to pump in.

"For a very brief time I did have to pump in a closet, but part of the problem is that the school I was in was an open building," Heldman said as she explained how there are not private classrooms in an open building concept.

Danielle Russo, an elementary school teacher in Mentor, said she experienced similar difficulties to Heldman, and says she uses her classroom to pump.

"Sometimes it's hard to explain to students when they're so young like what I'm doing, why I have to lock the door and why do I have a sign on the door that says you can't come in," Russo said.

In a comment to News 5, Kristen Kirby of Mentor Schools says, “Mentor Schools understands the importance for mothers to be able to provide breast milk for their children. We encourage our employees to collaborate with their supervisors to make a plan as to when pumping would best fit into the schedule without disrupting classroom instruction. We treat each mom as an individual and make necessary accommodations to allow for a smooth transition back to the workforce”.