This story is so absurd I almost laughed when I first read about in the New York Times. Yesterday Chiara Pozzi Perteghella, a pharmacist from Bassano del Grappa in Italy, was not allowed to breastfeed her 3 month old baby while taking an exam. The exam was long- 5 hours in total, and they refused to make any special allowances for her to nurse her baby during that time. They claimed that it would disrupt other students, yet they wouldn't provide her a separate room. They said she could leave to breastfeed the baby and come back, but they would not make up the time she might loose during these breaks.
So that sounds bad, but get this- the exam was for certification as a BREASTFEEDING advisor!
Chiara is a pharmacist and a mother of three children. Her pharmacy was already a part of the Farmacia Amica Allattamento Materno (Breastfeeding-Friendly Pharmacies - Code Complient Pharmacy,) but she wanted to increase her skills by becoming a lactatian consultant through the IBLCE.
The IBLCE- International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners is the world recognised authority for certifiying practitioners in lactation and breastfeeding care. After the birth of her son in April she informed the instructor that she would need to take the exam with her son, because he would be too young to stay with someone at that point. He was only three months old by the date of the exam, and Chiara is a follower of what she calls the "maternage approach," the Italian term for attachment parenting. She was under the impression that the arrangement was fine with them until May 18th, just two months before the exam, she was informed that only examiners and examinees may go into the room.
Perhaps they thought the baby might whisper her all the answers?
The reason they gave was that the baby would be too distracting to the other examinees. I'm trying to imagine who might be more qualified as a breastfeeding advisor than a breastfeeding woman...?
Given their evident lack of support to breastfeeding mothers completing this course I can imagine that a room full of certified breastfeeding advisors would be...
Who would you rather take breastfeeding advice from?
Ironically the exam involved a question on the practice of "External Pregnancy," which means the mother wears the baby for several hours a day in a wrap or sling, breastfeeds frequently as needed, and even takes the baby to work with her.
If the IBLCE would not make any special allowances for breastfeeding mothers, how can they expect employers to?
Their new policy is about involving mother in society, making it possible to breastfeed anywhere, integrating mothers and babies instead of excluding them. In fact this year's IBLCE meeting in Chiara's home town was titled: "Women and their breastfeeding choices: cultural changes and practical support systems." All very ironic considering Chiara's treatment during one of their exams. Chiara herself said:
"I regret to say that I will not sit the exam, because I don’t think such discrimination and inconsistency should be tolerated and because I don’t like to be qualified as a breastfeeding expert by people who showed they know nothing about it."
7/27/2010 04:37:54 pm
Nothing intelligent to say, this blew my mind!
7/28/2010 12:14:46 am
Jenn- thank you for sharing it like you did. It blew my mind too, I just had to write about it!
7/28/2010 03:26:50 am
I assume the exam candidate was in communication with the IBLCE in Europe staff (http://www.iblce-europe.org/Start_1.htm) and has got in touch with them again since the exam? IBLCE has reasons for exam "rules," and they are the ones who can address complaints/concerns. Perhaps access to enough proctors was an issue at the particular exam site where this occurred.
7/28/2010 03:53:44 am
if that wasnt so sad it would be funny...
7/28/2010 03:34:33 pm
Karen- thanks for your input! Nice to hear from an insider. :) Yes, Chiara had been in touch with them right up until the exam, but they wouldn't make any accomodations for her, (separate room etc.) I don't know if she was in touch with them after the exam, since this blog was written only a day after the exam date. Chiara will be keeping in touch with me, so I imagine I can update you on what happens.
7/29/2010 11:15:54 am
Just wanted to echo what Karen said - I just sat for this exam in the US with my (older) nursling. We nursed right before the start (the exam even started a few minutes late because of us). We nursed again during the break (the exam is 2.5 hours, then a 1 hr break, then 2.5 more). You are welcome to leave the room with a proctor during the 2.5 hours. I did leave (with a proctor) during the first part - not to nurse, but to snack because, as a breastfeeding mama, I get hungry! The time counted against me, but *no one* uses the full 2.5 hours. I was the last one in the room at 2 hours.
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A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.