Five weeks ago, Jaielyn Belong welcomed her son, Adrian, into the world. Jaielyn planned from the beginning to be both financially responsible and “earth friendly” by breastfeeding and cloth diapering her son, as many mothers do. She intends to breastfeed him whenever she is with him, and when she can’t, she’ll pump for him. There are multiple laws protecting this exact right—in fact, most states have laws protecting the mother’s right to breastfeed. There’s just one catch: Jaielyn is a sophomore in high school (Lake Forest High School in Delaware), and her school refuses to make accommodations for her to pump during the school day.
If Jaielyn were an adult, this wouldn’t even be in question. No reasonable workplace would refuse to accommodate her desire to provide breast milk for her son, and if they tried, they would end up in serious legal trouble. Now, Jaielyn provides a new quandary: because the facility is a school and Jaielyn is a teenager, are her rights less than any other new mother?
According to her mother, Betty Belong, Jaielyn is the one who decided to breastfeed and cloth diaper her baby. In spite of her youth, she is determined to give her baby the best, healthiest start possible, not to mention saving her family money where she can. She made the decision to breastfeed and cloth diaper herself, without pressure from family members—and now she is being denied that right by a school that will not allow her the space to pump or storage for expressed milk.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. As long as there is continued “demand” in the form of baby or pump, the body continues to produce milk. On the other hand, if the milk is no longer “demanded,” Jaielyn’s body will no longer produce as much as Adrian needs.
What would you do if this were your child? Some have suggested homeschooling; but Jaielyn intends to finish her education in a public school, as is her right. Others suggest a facility for teen mothers, including schools that allow her to bring her baby; but she is comfortable in her current high school and wants to stay where she is. Should she be denied the ability to breastfeed and/or pump because of it?
What do you think?