When a working mum was told to stop expressing breast milk in the office and another told that pumping milk in her private cubicle was a distraction to other employees, Singapore mum-of-two Jen Pan got snappy.
In a show of support for mums returning to the workplace after having a baby, the photographer took her frustration to the street in a public – but picturesque – stand against employer discrimination.
A series of images taken in the bustling Singapore CBD features Audra, a mum and an employee. Audra has no qualms about feeding her child in public and has no plans to bow down to rude glares and judgement: “It’s my boob, it’s my baby, it’s my way”.
Jen says the special photography series, featured on her website, is dedicated to all working mums who pump at work.
“Do not be discouraged with ignorant people. You are doing what you have to do. Do not be guilty or ashamed. You are in charge of your baby’s nutrient intake,” says Jen.
“No-one has the right to tell you to stop your breastfeeding journey before you or baby are ready. You are beautiful.”
Jen says her photos are for mums facing discrimination in the workplace and for the “horrible bosses” who make life difficult for mums yet turn a blind eye to smoking breaks and other allowances for their employees.
“Recently I have read a few accounts of working mums who shared the difficulties they face at their work places with regards to expressing milk. One mum was told to stop expressing milk in the office as it was affecting her work efficiency. She was put under probation for assessment of her performance bonus,” says Jen on her blog.
“Another mum did not have a place to pump at work and asked for permission to pump at her own cubicle discreetly. Instead of encouraging her, she was told to consider to stop expressing milk as it was distracting to other colleagues.
“I can’t help but to wonder if these superiors are aware that they are actually displaying discrimination? Are they ignorant or are they just being difficult to breastfeeding mums?”
Jen says she hopes more companies worldwide will eliminate discrimination and show more support to mums.
“In the states, they introduced a Break Time for Nursing Mothers law to help make breastfeeding and working possible for more mums across the country,” Jen says.
“The law requires employers to provide break time and a private place for hourly paid employees to pump breast milk during the work day.”
Similar laws to protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers who need to express milk for their infants exist in Australia.
Jen’s message to employers is simple: “Please do not ever think that they are just making an excuse to skive, if they don’t pump out their milk, their babies will have no milk to drink and their boobs will swell and leak…”
She warns that pain and mastitis can follow, forcing some mums to miss work on sick leave.
“Give them a few minutes to settle their mummy role and I am sure they will be a relieved, happy and efficient worker!” Jen says.
But while Australian working mums have legal protection to breastfeed or express, they still can face discrimination in the workplace. Soon Australian companies with more than 100 employees will have to divulge how many female staff quit or are made redundant after maternity leave.
The information will go to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency under new reporting requirements which come into force this year.
(images via Jen Pan Photography)