Working breastfeeding mothers will be able to relate with Olympic Artistic swimmer from Spain, Ona Carbonell. Ona simply wanted to bring her son to the Tokyo Olympics so that she could continue to breastfeed him. Now, she’s speaking out because the onerous rules imposed by the Japanese government would make it too dangerous and impractical for her to breastfeed while at the Games.
Carbonell posted an Instagram video describing her frustration with the obstacles faced by breastfeeding athletes at the Olympics. In the video, she described the guidelines she’d have to follow to breastfeed her son Kai while at the Games. Kai, who is nearly a year old, would have to stay in a hotel, “and we wouldn’t know how far it is until we’re there.” She added, “They wouldn’t be allowed to leave the hotel room during the 20ish days I’d be in Tokyo.” And she wasn’t only concerned about her son being cooped up in a hotel room for three weeks, but she also feared for her team’s health. “For me to go and breastfeed Kai whenever he needs it during the day, I would have to leave the Olympic Village, the team’s bubble… risking my team’s health,” she said.
In the United States, “federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has a need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk,” according to the Department of Labor.
Despite these regulations, many women face the same reality as Carbonell, feeling forced to choose between their career and breastfeeding. 20% of women who stopped breastfeeding cited their return to work or school as the reason.
Negative attitudes are still a problem. People seem to get most upset about breastfeeding in public, extending breastfeeding past one year, and pumping breast milk at work.
With the world watching, the Olympic Games would have been a perfect opportunity to normalize what is only natural, breastfeeding.