Lactation education

Invisible Labor in American Lactation Rooms

Jhe Longworth House lactation suite is majestic. Furnished with wood paneling and a patrician window curtain, it accommodates a refrigerator, sink, television and pumping stations equipped with hospital-grade breast pumps, armchairs, shelves, hangers, tissues and towels. wipes. The suite, one of many created in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2007 at the instigation of Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, is a special space. In a country that does not guarantee compulsory paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child and where the pressure to breastfeed is intense, lactation rooms have multiplied in the last ten years. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 required health insurance plans to cover the cost of a breast pump and required companies with more than 50 employees to provide new mothers with adequate spaces to express their milk. (Although not all breastfeeding parents identify as women or mothers, the majority do.)

Inmate, Julia Tutwiler Women’s Prison, Wetumpka, Alabama

Corinne Botz for TIME

In her photo series and accompanying documentary, both titled “Milk Factory”, Corinne Botz enters over thirty US lactation facilities and makeshift spaces for nursing mothers. His photographs include beautifully decorated living rooms, repurposed office spaces, prefabricated lactation pods, boiler rooms, restaurant basements, cafeterias, bathrooms, trains, and pop-up tents. They are “images of solitary pieces that take on collective power through their accumulation,” says Botz. “Rarely does a space feel so utilitarian and so emotionally charged.” The collection bears witness to the very varied working conditions of American mothers.

The project began as a personal recording of Botz’s early experiences as a mother when she photographed the oddly sparse room she pumped into at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. From there, she traveled across the country to photograph lactation facilities at other workplaces, including a California farm, airports, various New York schools, and the Julia Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Alabama.

Adjunct Professor (self-portrait), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York

Corinne Botz

Botz’s images reflect the inherent contradictions of contemporary parenthood. The title milk factory emphasizes that lactation is a form of labor, even though federal law conceptualizes it as a work interruption, which employers are not required to compensate. Breastfeeding is not free. It can be painful; requires time, know-how and equipment; and has an opportunity cost. Maternal and Child Health Advocate Kimberly seal allergies calculated that “at a proposed federal minimum wage of $15 an hour”, breastfeeding women would receive “$16,200 for six months of exclusive breastfeeding”. In practice, sociologists Phyllis Rippeyoung and Mary Noonan showed that the longer women breastfeed, the greater and longer the loss of income they experience.

What does it mean when people are expected to breastfeed and do so in isolated multi-user lactation rooms, such as the Longworth House suite at the Capitol, which often serve as common areas , fostering a sense of camaraderie among new mothers. In the salon of the Capitol, women across the aisle mingle, a rare opportunity at a time of intense divisiveness where cooperation is essential to push for pro-family legislation. Coincidentally, the week Botz was filming, Congress passed the Federal Employees Paid Leave Act, which now provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to approximately 2.1 million federal workers.

Botz has completed filming milk factory days before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. While nursing rooms arguably bring the home into the workplace, for non-essential workers the pandemic has had the opposite effect: bringing the workplace into the home. “The pandemic has underscored the systemic failures and institutional barriers that broadly affect women, especially women of color and working parents, and the need for policy change,” Botz says. “It’s a great time to reinvent a fairer way to live and work.” Perhaps the next big parental leave reform will come from discussions and coalitions forged on Capitol Hill and in other lactation rooms nationwide.

Private school teacher, New York

Corinne Botz

Administrative Specialist, Ford House Office Building, Washington, DC

Corinne Botz for TIME

Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs, New York

Corinne Botz for TIME

Public School Teacher, Brooklyn

Corinne Botz

Farm Worker, Reiter Affiliates, Santa Maria, CA

Corinne Botz for TIME

Photographer, Warehouse, Queens

Corinne Botz

Bar Owner, Donna Cocktail Club, Brooklyn

Corinne Botz

Vice President, Eataly, New York

Corinne Botz

Nurse Cosmetic Injector, Office, New York City

Corinne Botz

Professor of Law, Amtrak Train, Connecticut

Corinne Botz

Creative Director, Domino Media Group, New York

Corinne Botz

Mamava Pod, LaGuardia Airport, Queens, New York

Corinne Botz

Longworth House office building, US Senate, Washington DC

Corinne Botz for TIME

Business Group Director, New York City

Corinne Botz

Publicist, Guggenheim Museum, New York

Corinne Botz

Actor, Playwrights Horizons Rehearsal Studio, New York

Corinne Botz

University professor, Philadelphia

Corinne Botz

Infectious Disease Scientist, New York City

Corinne Botz

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