Highschool denies teen mom breastfeeding accommodations
FELTON, DE -- Jaielyn Belong is a sophomore at Lake Forest High School in Felton, Delaware. “She is a good student,” said her mother Betty Belong. “She's a book worm and has occasionally gotten in trouble for reading during class.”
Five weeks ago, she welcomed baby Adrian Amir Belong into her arms at over eight pounds. Baby Adrian now weighs a whopping 10 pounds thanks to his mom who is exclusively breastfeeding him with the hopes of breastfeeding him for at least one year as is the current recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Jaielyn, now a teen mom, will soon be returning to school to continue her high school career with the support of her own mother, family and a host of local moms. There’s only one catch:
"I feel the school is discriminating against my decision to breastfeed my son," she said. A sentiment which is seconded by Betty who feels the school is bullying Jaielyn.
The nurse, a counselor and a school administrator recommended Jaielyn only breastfeed her son before and after school hours. This recommendation would not be changed regardless of whether or not a doctor’s note is able to be obtained. This would mean Jaielyn could not pump for or nurse her baby for over eight hours every weekday.
This recommendation goes against Delaware law which reads:
31 Del. C. § 310
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a mother shall be entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation, wherein the mother is otherwise permitted.
Some view going to school as the job of a teenager, which would mean the Reasonable Break Time For Nursing Mothers in the Fair Labor Standards Act would also be important to this case, see the bottom for the full text. It states:
SEC. 4207. REASONABLE BREAK TIME FOR NURSING MOTHERS.
Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 19384 (29 U.S.C. 207) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘An employer shall provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and 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."
Even so, “The school nurse called me on Thursday and told me they will not be able to accommodate my daughters need to pump or store milk during school hours,” said Betty. “They said the electric pump is noisy and will draw attention to my daughter. Pumping milk is time consuming. They're not even sure she'll be pumping milk when she says so.”
According to Betty, the nurse added that her refrigerator was for medicinal only and that she believes Jaielyn would need to be supervised. “Her peers may tease her,” the nurse told Betty.
Local La Leche League (LLL) leader, Heather Felker said, "It seems illogical that a place cannot be found for this teen to pump. If a teacher requested an area to pump, by law one would need to be provided. The teens mother also mentioned that there is a Bayhealth clinic on site."
Felker, who has alerted the LLL organization as well as the Delaware Breastfeeding Coalition of the situation, said Jaielyn "has shown great maturity by taking responsibility for her pregnancy and now her son. She chose breastmilk as the healthiest possible start for her son, and as a cost saving measure for her family. By not supporting these choices, the school is sending a negative message."
This negative message goes against the Lake Forest High School Student Code of Conduct which reads: "All Lake Forest students shall behave in a manner that promotes a school environment that is nurturing, orderly, safe and conducive to learning and personal/social development."
“I only want what's the very best for him and it is scientifically proven, breast milk is the best choice," Jaielyn said.
Her mom added, “My daughter’s body made this milk for him and she wants him to have what's all natural and made just for him. My daughter just wants to be able to do her academic studies and care for her son's nutritional needs.
"When our children go through life and make positive choices we have to follow through and do what we can to help,” Betty said in support of her daughter’s breastfeeding decision. “I'm so proud of the choices she's made and I have to help in any way I can. I thought I was fighting a losing battle, but knew I wasn't giving up without one."