Should A Professor Have Breastfed her Sick Baby in Class?

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A professor walks into class with her baby — the baby was sick and couldn’t go to daycare. Because it was the first day of class--an intro to "Sex, Gender, and Culture"--Adrienne Pine didn’t want to cancel. So she brought her baby along.

During the lecture, the baby was at times strapped to Pine's back, at times crawling on the floor, at times being held by a teaching assistant. At one point she got fussy, and so Pine breastfed her. Normal “this-is-life” stuff, or a national news story?

National news story, obviously. Pine has written an essay at CounterPunch explaining her version of events. The Mamafesto also has a good post on this, although we disagree about a few things.

To me, there are a couple of issues here, and breastfeeding is the least of them. Is breastfeeding in class a big deal (or should it be)? No. If a mom is breastfeeding during a break or even during a lecture and the feeding isn’t interrupting anything, then who cares? What’s more interesting (and questionable) is the general issue of bringing a small child to work, when your work is as a professor lecturing a classroom of students.

The fact that the baby was sick makes this question a little easier — it’s disrespectful and inappropriate to bring your sick self or another sick person into your work place when you are afforded adequate sick days. Sick days exist both to give you time to recover and to make sure that you don’t communicate your disease to other people. That’s exactly why the baby couldn’t go to daycare — because it’s a public health issue. Students do not get sick days. I understand that Pine didn’t want to cancel the first day of class, but bringing her sick child into that room was wrong. Sick babies also tend to need more care and attention, which no one other than Pine — who was supposed to be lecturing — was there to provide.

Read more from Breastfeeding Sick Babies in Class at Feministe

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