Breastfeeding + unpaid leave – an open letter to Congress

Dear Members of Congress, 

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! We’d like to celebrate by giving you the chance to do better for women in America. And while we know you might not *get* the importance of this topic or even feel comfortable covering it – ‘cos Congress itself is only made up of roughly 27% women and men don’t have any skin (read: tits) in the game, so to speak – hear us out…

In the U.S. today, a woman’s ability to breastfeed her child is largely determined by the availability of paid family leave that she is afforded by the U.S. government. You should already know this, but um, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not offer its citizens paid family leave.

Seems kinda odd since we’re a nation that claims to be all about family values, but hey, we’re not here to call anyone out. The point is: We think America can and should do better, and YOU have the power to initiate that change.

Let’s talk…

A woman’s decision to breastfeed her baby should not be influenced by OR made for her by her job. Women should not be forced to prematurely return to work at the detriment of their wellbeing and that of their babies. But without paid family leave, many moms have to go back to work before they’re ready so they can pay their bills.

The health of women and babies everywhere is negatively impacted by Congress’s inability to advocate for paid family leave laws that could protect them. But let’s go even further and talk about the large-scale societal benefits of breastfeeding that we’re missing out on *because* we don’t take care of our moms…

Society comprehensively benefits when mothers breastfeed on account of the facts that:

  • Breastfeeding saves lives. Research shows that if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented each year.
  • Breastfeeding saves money. Medical costs may be lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
  • Breastfeeding also helps make a more productive workforce. Mothers who breastfeed may miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who feed their infants formula. Employer medical costs may also be lower.
  • Breastfeeding is better for the environment. Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste. But breast milk is a renewable resource that comes packaged and warmed.

So, why have we still not passed a paid family leave act here in America? The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding came onto the scene in 2011. Do the right thing. We’ve been patient enough.

One more thing before we go…Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all of the moms who pump in cramped spaces at their place of employment because they have no other choice. Happy World Breastfeeding Week to women of color who are forced to go back to work two weeks after childbirth because of racial disparities in the U.S. We see you and we ain’t got nothin’ but love for you.

P.S. Sorry if we sound a little angry, but our therapist said our rage is justified, and she’s literally never wrong about anything.


Join us in advocating for U.S. Paid Family Leave: 

Contact your Members of Congress and ask them to prioritize paid family leave. 

Read more on how unpaid leave negatively impacts Moms:

Moms Without Maternity Leave are More Likely to Suffer from Postpartum Depression