I’m frustrated that my employee didn’t want the post-baby flexibility I arranged for her

A reader writes:

One of the people on my team announced she was pregnant. I was thrilled for her and wanted to be supportive manager. This company is too small to qualify for FMLA but they do have their own program in place for emergency and medical leave which is similar to FMLA. It allows for 12 weeks paid and we don’t have to use our vacation time first. I talked to my boss and the HR department and advocated for my employee and they agreed to allow her eight extra weeks of paid leave on top of the regular emergency/medical leave, plus as much vacation time as she wanted to use. Our company has less than 50 employees and our state has no pumping-at-work laws. I got HR to convert one of our old spaces into a pumping room with a locking door, chair, sink, and outlet. They agreed to pay her for her pumping breaks. I also was successful in getting my employee a flexible schedule for when she returned to work. I looked into our insurance plan and found out she could get a pump covered and I left printouts for her.

I was surprised that she chose to come back to work at eight weeks and not take the full medical leave or the extra time I got for her. She didn’t use the pumping room because she didn’t breastfeed at all, and she wouldn’t use the flexible schedule I got her. She worked the normal hours. I’m disappointed I stuck my neck out and went to bat for her, only for her to turn around and not use any of the help and perks I got for her. She knew about all of them before she left on maternity leave.

I reminded her several times about the flexible schedule and let her know breastfeeding and pumping was still possible. She complained to HR about me, and my boss and HR told me to back off. My boss and HR are upset that I advocated for her without talking to her first. She says her husband works for himself and the plan was always for her to go back soon while he had the baby part-time and the baby was in daycare part-time. She said she could never stay home and eight weeks was even too long with the baby. She said she never planned to breastfeed and never tried and formula was fine. In the meeting to discuss her complaint, she made a statement says all this and told me she doesn’t feel bad for choosing to work when she could afford to stay home and not breastfeeding even though she could have. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t want the perks I worked so hard to get. I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it. Given the small size of the company and low turnover and my few years left before retirement, I am not likely to have a pregnant employee again.

I had to quit my job when I was pregnant because there was no support for working moms. I’m having a hard time understanding why she wouldn’t want the perks I would have killed for back then. She went right back to work like she never even left. I admit I’m at a loss.

Because people are different. Some women would have been thrilled with all the arrangements you made, and others would have appreciated the thought but not wanted to use them. That’s okay — people get to make their own choices.

You went wrong in two places here. The first was in negotiating all of this for her without finding out if she’d want it. Maybe you didn’t check with her first because you didn’t want to get her hopes up if you turned out not to be able to make some of this happen, or maybe you just assumed she’d want it. But whenever you’re making arrangements for someone without their okay — even if you think it’s highly likely that they’ll be thrilled when they find out — you have to be okay with the possibility that they’ll have other plans and preferences.

The second place where you went wrong is a lot more serious: You came across as meddling in her personal, private decisions about her baby. Whether or not she breastfeeds is 100% not your business. And pressuring her to stay home longer than she wants — and showing disappointment that she didn’t want to stay home longer — gets into really icky policing of other women’s personal decisions. Based on what she said in her complaint, it sounds like you made her feel judged and pressured about her Very Personal and Private choices — and that’s inappropriate for anyone to do, but triply so when you’re the boss.

There are a zillion reasons why she might not have wanted the perks you arranged for her, and none of them are your business. You can be privately disappointed that you went to so much trouble and it turned out not to be needed, but you don’t have any standing to (a) show it or (b) be disappointed in her actual choices. They’re hers, and they presumably work well for her, and you’re not in a position where you’re entitled to any insight into why. That’s between her and her partner, and no one else.

You started out with your heart in the right place here. You went to bat to support a new mom and make her life easier. But somewhere along the way, you lost sight of your goal — to support this particular new mom in the ways that worked best for her. You got too invested in her decisions, and took it too personally when she made different decisions than you expected.

The best thing you can do here is to apologize to her and then leave this all alone. Tell her that you realize that you came across as overly invested in her choices and that you assumed you knew what arrangements she’d want, and tell her that you’re sorry that you weren’t more respectful of her personal and private choices. Emphasize “personal” and “private,” since those were the concepts that were missing before. And assure her that you’ve learned your lesson and that you’ll limit your support to what she tells you she needs — and that if she doesn’t need anything, that’s fine too.

{ 981 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    Note: Judgmental comments about what individual women should do re: breast-feeding or staying home with their babies are not welcome here.

    1. Le Sigh

      The next time someone needs to provide proof that women can’t win no matter what we do — even among other women who say they support women! — just print this comments section out.
      — have children and you’re selfish and killing Earth, don’t have children and you’re selfish AND you’re the devil and want to see us all die out
      –work if you’re smart and want to be a good model for your kids, stay home with them if you love your kids because daycare is satan
      –breastfeed if you actually care that your children be good members of society, bottle feed if you worship goat-eating devil lovers
      –keep your spouse’s name if you’re a jezebel feminazi harpy, take your husband’s name if you’re a subscriber to Patriarchy Monthly

      I could do this all day!

      1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

        It’s my opinion that things were less regressive for working mothers of the late 80’s/early ’90s. We were the first full generation of Working Mothers Are Supposed to Be A Normal Thing, and even though we didn’t have some of the codified benefits the latest generation has, we also didn’t have a societal list of “How This Must Be Done!”. We were often making it up on the fly, the way it worked for our individual families. I shake my head when I see what new mothers have to struggle with now.

        Codified benefits = progress
        Societal judgement/pressure = regress

        1. mrs__peel

          I think you’re right– I grew up in the ’80s, and my mom and my friends’ moms all worked outside the home. Obviously I wasn’t privy to all of their conversations as a kid, but I don’t remember nearly the same level of sniping/ Mommy wars about individual choices back then.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            I think the high-speed Internet in every house and on every mobile device was to mommy wars what gasoline is to a fire.

            I’ve received my share of snarky comments from other moms when my kids were young in the 90s, but at least I didn’t have total strangers inform me that everything I was doing as a parent was wrong.

          2. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

            There was plenty of tension about whether to continue working or not, but I don’t remember tension about *how* to do it. The only intense pressure I remember was about face time. Article after article said our children would be harmed by not having enough time with their mothers, so what “we” (however many people did the same, I venture to say many many of us) did was work and then come home and spend a lot of time one on one with our children – played games, watched television, read books, etc. I don’t remember pressure about how. I don’t remember play date schedules (were they a thing then?), or fancy birthday parties every year or 1 zillion after school activities (if you didn’t have a child who wanted to play viola, or take karate or play soccer).

            Of course, maybe I was too fricking busy to notice all of the people judging me for doing it wrong :D

            Anyway, we produced millennials, the best generation ever, so we did okay. :)

          3. Bea

            In the 90s, the other room mothers were atrocious to my mom. She was a SAHM just like them but we lived a frugal life in a trailer park and my dad worked his body to the bone to keep us fed, clothed and yearly family vacations. But they lived where the poor folk lived (jokes on them, it was a 55 yr and older community, we were the only hold outs after they ran the other youngsters out).

            So yeah it wasn’t high speed internet blog days but there was plenty of things that you got judged on and bonus if you dont allow your kids to associate with the kids with less favorable parents.

            1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

              I am so sorry. :-( Yes, this has always been with us. :-( (Immediately “Harper Valley PTA” came to mind, a song from when I was young and if you don’t know it, give it a google. It is a fight back kinda feel good on exactly what you describe. <3 )

        2. SavannahMiranda

          I’m late to this comment thread but fascinated by it, as a working new mom, and I completely agree with what you’ve said here.

          I’m an older mom (42) so I too remember How It Used To Be Before The Mommy Wars.

          In fact I didn’t even think the Mommy Wars were real, until I stepped into the middle of the snipers’ hunting ground and started having to dodge. I thought they were some hyped up artifact of media (or whatever, I don’t know). Because I simply couldn’t get my mind around WTF all the internecine warfare was about.

          I still don’t get it. But I know they are real. And a weeping sore on the body of society.

          Protections and rights were more variable when the solutions were ad hoc and made up on the fly. But they were also less controversial, somehow. It’s as if we’ve created a Mommy Class and the issues have become freighted and portentous, instead of individual and personal.

      2. soon 2 be former fed

        HA! Ain’t this the truth! I’ve been in the workplace a long time, and I wish that the judgement police would just quit.

      3. straws

        Don’t forget that if you breastfeed for too long, you’re gross and cultivating a degenerate though… So many angles to judge from! How do I choose?

      4. Le Sigh

        And this only covers a very narrow subset of childbearing-related issues!

        But please folks, if you fund my Kickstarter, I can finally take the rest of my working life off to finish my book, “A Comprehensive Guide to All The Ways Women Can’t Win.”

      5. Rebecca in Dallas

        I feel like I get judged for not having kids.

        And then I see all the different ways that moms (always moms, rarely dads) get judged for their parenting decisions. My hats are off to you, no matter what choices you make.

        1. PSB

          Women absolutely are judged more frequently and on a wider range of topics than dads, but dads get plenty of judgment too, believe me. It’s quieter and less visible, but it’s never ending.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        OMG so much this. I’ve had people comment that I have too many kids, and too few. What can I say? They are Schrödinger’s kids. (Not paternity-wise, but, you know.)

      7. NewWorkingMama

        OMG Patriarchy Monthly. Literally dying of laughter.

        As a brand new working mama (literally day 3), it’s literally impossible to please everyone (even squaring decisions with your own brain is a challenge.) I would have loved to have these benefits (and I had a great package as far as maternity leave and flexibility) but would have been SO SO freaked out by my boss’s pushy manner and insistence that “she knows best” and “you’ll regret this” that seems to stem from her own experiences. My boss is a badass working mom herself, and I find that hugely beneficial because she gets that it’s hard and has agreed to some flexibility that I requested once I figured out what would work for me. I applaud this woman for trying to do something nice, but this could have been easily avoided by having a simple conversation about what accommodations would make the most sense for her.

  2. JokeyJules

    OP – you’re GREAT for wanting to be so accommodating, but that doesn’t mean she MUST utilize all of the accommodations you got for her. Just know you’re great, but everyone is different and has their own post-birth plans.
    Moving forward, you might want to try to make it policy that these accommodations are available, but not mandatory.

    All of this said, offering these accommodations and opportunities to her are great, offering your opinions and views on how she should parent post-birth is not great, and shouldn’t happen.

    1. MK

      I would go a step further and argue it would have been better if the OP went to the bat to formulate a standard policy about parental benefits in her company instead of asking accommodations for a specific individual.

      1. beanie beans

        It’s not too late for her to still do this! That way all that hard work doesn’t feel wasted and she can feel happy that future employees have good options.

        1. Legal Beagle

          Yes, I agree! And it would be a wonderful legacy for OP to leave after her retirement. I’m sure there will be working parents who join the company in the future who would greatly appreciate these types of accommodations.

      2. GarlicMicrowaver

        That’s a huge part of the equation. Surpised many people aren’t also arguing this point.

      3. LouiseM

        Totally agreed, MK. The change needs to be systemic and OP can and should make that happen.

      4. Ms Mad Scientist

        Agree! So many of the moms I know didn’t feel ready to go back to work at 12 weeks, or didn’t get paid for pumping breaks. OP, you may not have another pregnant employee, but the company most definitely will.

      5. Jules the 3rd

        Actually, her company already has 12 weeks paid, which is really good for a small company in the US. Sounds like they have a decent parental benefits situation already.

        And thanks to her, there’s now a room that can be converted easily to a breastfeeding station.

        1. Lunita

          Yes, all the support and changes OP made were great-I stayed home 12 weeks but would have liked longer, and I would have loved a nice pumping room! When I came back, we were in temporary trailers due to an office renovation and I had to pump in one of those. It was cold and not too clean. OP should attemp to make those policy for the company. The place where it wrong was not leaving well enough alone when the employee clearly wasn’t into the perks (and not asking in the first place), as Alison pointed out.

    2. Sketchee

      Yes love all of the support and the way JokeyJules has put it here. It’s not really flexibility if it must be exactly as you’ve laid out OP. Then it’s just another form of rigid rules.

      When you give someone a choice, it’s because you want them to have the choice. You gave her options and she picked an option. We can’t assume what works for us would work for them.

      I love routine. Others love flexibility. Both are valid.

      You gave her the choice of flexibility and then she picked what worked for her.

  3. Info Architect

    OP, these are great perks and support systems you put in place to help your employee! When I returned to work, I had to ask for what I needed, and even then, it was barely adequate. If the employee thought she might use the arrangements you made for her before she left, she’s still allowed to change her mind. A lot of moms are guilty of mom-shaming others, and that’s how it’s coming across here. It’s OK that she made different choices than you did, and I hope this doesn’t put you off towards making similar arrangements for other employees in the future. You seem like a good manager. Just be aware of how easy it is to cross boundaries when it comes to decisions on rearing children.

    1. ScienceLady

      Yes – it’s tough because this can come off as a “supposed to” thing to a parent. Some women feel that you are “supposed to” breastfeed, “supposed to” not want to go back to work right away, “supposed to” spend all time with the baby and not others adults, ad nauseam. Fortunately, the only thing you NEED to do is keep a baby happy and healthy, which can happen many different ways, but most importantly with a happy and healthy parent!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

        I agree – this work issue is probably coming in the context of every decision and choice she’s making being scrutinized and criticized by everyone in her life – her parents and in-laws, friends, family members, people at her religious institution or club, you name it. Work is often the one refuge we have from the constant personal nitpicking we get from those we love, so that might explain why she’s extra frustrated when her boss joins in.

        OP, you sound awesome and as someone who is hoping to need maternity benefits in the next few years, I sincerely wish there were more bosses (and people) out there like you. But still, advocating and going the extra mile for an employee doesn’t grant you the authority to decide how they should use those benefits.

        1. EddieSherbert

          +1

          I think this is a great part – your employee is most likely getting A LOT of unsolicited advice/judgement outside of work, which is probably why she reacted strongly enough to go to HR right away when it also happened at work. Don’t take it personally! And please follow Alison’s great advice!

      2. Michaela Westen

        You are supposed to breastfeed. Breastfeeding makes a huge difference in the child’s health! I am very unhappy to learn there are people who choose not to do it.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          This comment is unnecessary and inappropriate. You don’t know what someone’s situation is and it is actively harmful to women to judge/shame them for their choices.

          1. Specialk9

            Thank you. That was a much better response than mine, which was pithy and profane.

            I personally ugly-bawled more in the 5 months that I tried to breastfeed, feeling like such a failure. I saw lactation specialists, plural, took 15 pills of milk-promoting supplements a day, choked down brewers yeast on top of that, pumped and fed and pumped and CRIED SO MUCH. Switching to formula was so hard. I was exhausted, and ashamed (and actively shamed by mean mommies who thought my body and my choices were their business) and felt like such a failure as a mother and a person.

            But you know what? My kid is happy, healthy, active, curious, kind, and so interested in learning. He’s awesome. Formula fed his brain and his body and was very good for him.

            The book “Science of Mom” does an excellent job of teasing through all of the studies on breastfeeding for confounding variables like wealth and such. When a doctor and statistician tells you that actually, breastfeeding is fine if it works for you, but *greatly* overhyped, that’s important data for the Mommy Wars.

            Also, why on Earth do people choose to engage in Mommy Wars? It’s mean, it’s meddling, it’s anti-feminist, and it’s a violation of personal choice. And it’s cruel.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              I’m sorry you went through that. Mommy Wars are terrible. I don’t have kids, but I have plenty of friends who are moms and have been witness to plenty of them.

            2. Elspeth

              Good grief – I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that! I wasn’t able to breastfeed my first for medical reasons, and I did go on to breastfeed my second no problem at all. The point that all the mean mommies out there can’t seem to grasp, is that no one way is the right way for all mothers. And for the record, you are absolutely NOT a failure – you did what worked for you and your child, and that’s all that matters!

            3. Cafe au Lait

              Hugs SpecialK9. I went through something similar when I had my daughter in November. Not being able to breastfeed on top of having a hard pregnancy and traumatic labor really shook my self-identity. I’m in therapy now to help with my feelings of failure.

              I often remind myself that my daughter is happy, engaged and loves interacting with the world. She’s going to grow up into a fantastic person because I’m going to put in the work while raising her, not because of how I fed her.

            4. Jules the 3rd

              You have my sympathy, SpecialK9. I struggled mightily with breastfeeding too – did the same work / supplements / etc. I never managed enough and had to supplement.

              My 10yo is just fine.

              And yeah, Mommy Wars are cruel.

            5. Harper the Other One

              I am so sorry you went through that. I’ve seen friends fight those kinds of problems and it’s so miserable – and I’ve seen friends just decide formula is the right pick for them and get so much judgement. It’s all so incredibly unnecessary.

              I really wish we could move to the motto that the best parenting techniques are the ones that work for your particular family. Happy, relaxed parents are probably the best thing out there for kids, and the expectations heaped on parents turn parenting into nothing but stress and heartache.

              1. Nines

                “Happy, relaxed parents are probably the best thing out there for kids”

                Thank you! Very well put.

            6. Flash Bristow

              Right. The best baby is a FED baby.

              I understand the WHO recommendations and personally I agree that it’s good they give clear guidance, but there are many reasons why women won’t, or can’t, breastfeed. Formula provides an option to keep your baby fed.

            7. SimonTheGreyWarden

              Right? Fed is best. My son never latched beyond once at the lactation consultant’s and we tried for the first 4 months while I also pumped. I ended up being an EP mom (exclusive pumping) for his whole first year and it is by far the HARDEST Thing I have ever done, and I don’t know that I’d get started doing it again if I knew this would be the outcome. I would not have killed myself with round the clock pumpings and that stupid machine. A mother telling me she’s going to formula feed receives nothing but love from me. Every family has to do what’s best. There are some benefits to breastfeeding beyond formula, but my understanding is that they are fairly limited in time period (like the first couple weeks). In countries with access to safe water, formula is excellent.

            8. Effective Immediately

              I breastfed until 18 months because I was going to be OBJECTIVELY THE BEST AT PARENTING.

              It exacerbated my PPD, complete with all-day crying jags and panic attacks. I was miserable and resentful as hell about being an infant 7-11. I didn’t get to enjoy my baby because I was so busy being THE BEST.

              It’s a farce. If I had to do it again, I would absolutely, unapologetically bottle feed. I take my cues from my Maternal Infant Health colleagues and recite the mantra, “a baby fed with formula is a baby fed”.

              Breastfeeding is cool. Not breastfeeding is cool. You’re fine. Your choices are fine. Everything is fine.

              1. SavannahMiranda

                I think I love you. Can I hug you? I’m a new mom and I need a hug. And I needed to hear all of this.

                Thank you. Thank you so much.

            9. Jojo

              Some women do not make milk. Some, not enough. Some are on medication that baby cannot have. Maternity leave is usually unpaid. Low income/single parent families cannot always afford unpaid leave if they want food on table. And if the woman’s job is the one that brings in the med insurance, she cannot take off.

        2. Totally Minnie

          Not everyone is able to breastfeed, and telling all women they’re supposed to can make women who can’t feel like they’re bad mothers. Please, please, please, let yourself acknowledge that.

          1. LSP

            My MIL and SIL both were unable to breastfeed due to genetic traits. I tried and struggled to breastfeed and still needed to supplement because I just wasn’t producing. And I’ve known some women that just choose not to. There are all sorts of reasons for how women choose to feed their babies and it is zero of anyone else’s business what those reasons are.

            1. Rovannen

              My friend was one. She had to choose between breastfeeding or medication that kept her alive. She chose to stay alive and raise her children.

              Judgmental people abounded, criticizing her whenever she held a bottle, be it in the grocery store or at a park. She was reduced to tears many times.

            1. Jesca

              It is not. Move one. Inappropriate comment and everyone should move forward as it takes away from the letter.

            2. Totally Minnie

              It only counts as public health if it impacts the public. A woman’s decision about breastfeeding impacts two people. A formula fed baby does not pose any sort of health risk to the general populace, and as such it is no one else’s business.

            3. Jessie the First (or second)

              An individual mother’s choice to bottle feed has zero to do with public health. Wide trends in feeding has to do with public health, and if you are a public health expert you’ll be digging into data on why people choose to formula feed, whether some of the reasons are because of issues that could be addressed through education and access to certain supports, and then advocating for those supports in society in general.

              So it seems, since that’s not what you’re doing, that what you’re actually interested in doing is judging and shaming.

            4. ket

              Supporting breastfeeding by providing infrastructure and legislation that protect a woman’s ability to breastfeed and make it easier is great. Harassing individual women about breastfeeding can be extraordinarily insensitive as well as counterproductive. My poor sister has been getting crap about “knowing your child” or “not trying hard enough”, “not being patient”; finally, after more than 5 months and 3 doctors, the kid’s been diagnosed with a tongue tie. Mom felt really bad about bottle-feeding just to keep the kid’s weight up. The judginess of people like you did not help child, mother, or public health. You never know what battles are being fought behind the scenes.

            5. fposte

              When you’re an MPH commenting out of deep and layered knowledge where it’s professionally appropriate, sure. When you’re a nameless commenter shaming people on a blog for not doing what you did, no.

            6. Observer

              Puleeze.

              If public health were that simple, we’d have gotten rid of a whole host of problems. There are VERY few areas where EVERYONE is best served by “X”. Clean water and sufficient calories are in that list. Nursing, as beneficial as it can be, does NOT.

              And, I say this as a real nursing advocate. Some honesty and clarity will do a LOT more for public health that Mommy War reduxes.

            7. biobottt

              If this were really about public health, you would acknowledge that formula is just fine.

            8. Actually Has an MPH

              As someone who legitimately works in public health and in health promotion (which includes breastfeeding), you are doing public health wrong.

            9. jo

              Then you should support alternatives to breastfeeding/breast milk, because often it is necessary to ensure a healthy kid. My sister is going through through A LOT of struggle to breastfeed her first child (similar to what SpecialK9). When lactaction specialists, tongue-tie surgery, and many other measures did not help her baby nurse, and he wasn’t putting on enough weight (which made her feel TERRIBLE), she was advised to switch to pumping. When he STILL wasn’t putting on enough weight because her supply wasn’t enough, she had to supplement his diet with formula. Now the baby has developed food sensitivities, AND my sister has numerous food allergies, which means she is working her tail off to follow an acceptable diet for herself and the baby. On top of all this, the hours a day she spends pumping (and cleaning the pump parts) cut into the time she gets to spend actually holding and interacting with the baby–which is also important for his development! Thank goodness my sister seems not to be at all prone to depression, because I can’t imagine how awful things would be if post-partum depression were in the mix.

              Rigid views like yours contribute to moms feeling like they have no choice but to exhaust themselves attempting to breast feed, and the crippling inadequacy they feel if it doesn’t work out–not to mention the fact that their babies can end up not getting enough nutrition along the way. Your rigidity is in fact hugely detrimental to public health–much more detrimental than formula is to babies.

            10. SavannahMiranda

              ~~Public health~~ what a woman does with her t*ts certainly feels like my business.

              Fixed that for you.

        3. Friday

          Hey now, let’s not do this here. It’s not the only thing that makes a difference in a child’s health, just one slice of an extremely complex pie. And if not for formula, many women would never have been able to enter the workforce. It’s a viable choice for many families for countless reasons and our society is better off for it.

          I’m at work, actively pumping RIGHT NOW, and I will still defend a woman’s right to formula feed if that’s what she wants or needs to do for her family.

          1. Teal

            +1

            I’m also guessing the employee felt so intruded upon and scrutinized that she went on info-diet mode. OP pried and this woman gray-rocked her by saying “I didn’t want to” instead of giving any reasons for anything, because giving reasons just prolongs the conversation. And was none of OP’s business, and OP didn’t have a right to argue with the employee about it (exactly as people are trying to do here!).

            I’ve certainly had good reasons and chosen not to give them before, because teaching someone not to argue with me was more important in that moment.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              Right? My PPD was BAD, and the medication I take to keep it in check normally is not safe while breastfeeding. Luckily I had the support network to take a different medication, but if I’d needed to go back on my meds, or if I needed seizure medication, or chemo, or a host of other medical interventions I’d formula feed and tell anyone crass and crude enough to ask why that it was my choice.

        4. Green

          Whoa. You are supposed to mind your own business and make decisions for your own body and your own child instead of minding other people’s bodies.

          Many women are unable to breastfeed. Lots of women have had implants and are either unable to breastfeed or are uncomfortable doing so. Lots of women have had breast cancer or prophylactic mastectomies and can’t breastfeed. Lots of women try very hard to breastfeed, hire breastfeeding coaches, and are still unable to do it.

            1. Green

              Yes, absolutely. My only point was that she has no business in anyone else’s decisions and there are also reasons why people who agree with her premise and want to breastfeed have little or no control over whether they breastfeed. In general, I like to stick to worrying about my own boobs and nobody else’s!

          1. Breastfeeding is healthy

            If they’re not able to, that’s one thing and why formula exists. If they don’t even try, then it’s totally different.

              1. Breastfeeding is healthy

                I have a question. How do you determine when it is and when it is not OK to judge people’s parenting and pregnancy choices? Do you judge a woman who smokes during pregnancy? Do you judge a patent who feeds their kid junk food? I’m sure you judge parents who spank their children. So obviously, it’s not abnormal to judge people’s decisions about their children. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and infection among other things, not to mention that a randomized trial has already demonstrated the IQ benefits. Why is it not OK to judge a parent for non optimal parenting?

                1. Katniss

                  “Note: Judgmental comments about what individual women should do re: breast-feeding or staying home with their babies are not welcome here.”

                  You need to stop.

                2. Falling Diphthong

                  Breastfeeding makes a big difference if you live in a country where the leading cause of infant death is water-borne illness. I’m guessing that’s not the case for OP or her employee.

                  Breastfeeding has some health benefits over formula in the first few weeks, when the immune system is developing. After that it makes very little difference for your average person.

                  IQ–I’m having to type through rolled eyes here–was on a small group of premature babies. And the effects didn’t compare with those of birth order–which is real, widely demonstrated, and a couple of points.

                  -Signed, someone who breastfed but has no patience with these attacks. My daughter’s first best friend wasn’t breast fed because she was in an orphanage. I was not breastfed because my mother almost died in childbirth. You do real harm when you attack people like this.

                3. fposte

                  In my head? It’s always appropriate. Elsewhere? When it’s my job.

                  I’m troubled that you’re willing to overlook the huge class implications in the studies you suggest to promote your agenda. The only big randomized trial of breastfeeding, the Belarus study, does not reliably support your IQ claim (especially significant is the fact that there was no significant difference in the evaluations by teachers once the kids were in school), nor your death claim; it does support a milder likelihood for GI symptoms in formula fed babies and somewhat less eczema. That’s pretty much it.

                4. Former Employee

                  “Why is it not OK to judge a parent for non optimal parenting?”

                  Do you judge people for not sending their kids to the best private school which costs $40,000 a year? I mean, they could work 2 full time jobs and afford it, especially if both parents worked 2 full time jobs. What kind of derelict parents wouldn’t send their kid to such a school when virtually all of their graduates are accepted to the top Ivies or at least the ultimate in state schools (think Berkeley)? (sarcasm alert)

                5. biobottt

                  How do we determine? Well, when it actively hurts the baby, maybe. Formula doesn’t, unless it’s made with unclean water. Doesn’t sound like that’s an issue for the OP’s employee, so why pile on judgement?

                  And ONE study showing IQ differences doesn’t mean much. Other studies have showed no difference…

                6. Buckeye

                  “Why is it not OK to judge a parent for non optimal parenting?”

                  Because every parent does something that is considered non optimal. What is optimum is often subjective.

                7. MizA

                  As a HC professional, judging people for their health decisions is BS. We exist to contextually support (via education and service provision) people’s best health, as determined by the individual. And drinking/smoking during pregnancy=/=bottle feeding. Rather than stepping into those judgypants, remember that fed is best.

                8. Nell Webbish

                  Oh feel free to judge … and then get judged in return for your incomplete and inadequate understanding of medical science that is not conclusive and only suggests correlations that may or may not be directly related to breast feeding.

                  Simply put, the fact that you managed to stick your nipple in a baby’s mouth successfully does not actually make you a medical expert qualified to tell other women what to do and how to do it.

            1. Jesca

              Not your body, not your call. The benefits of breast feeding exist, but they aren’t so overwhelming to make that big of a difference at all. Otherwise, you would have an entire generation AT LEAST of people completely messed up. And we don’t. Move on from this.

            2. Zombeyonce

              Alison, are Michaela, Nameless Commentor, and Breastfeeding Is Healthy all the same people? Or am I to surprised that so many people would double down on this?

              1. Namelesscommentator

                I am not masquerading as another commentor.

                I’m just a public health worker with strong feelings when people ignore obvious warnings in favor of /choice/.

                (And I harbor no negative feelings towards women who can’t breastfeed due to medical/social factors … its the women who don’t even try that I struggle to accept).

                1. Jessie the First (or second)

                  I don’t even care whether you “accept” it or not, I just want you to shut up about whatever judgmental bullshit you have going on in your head.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago

                  Please explain to me how a woman’s decision to breastfeed or not impacts your day to day life.

                3. Yolo

                  Hey y’all, another public health worker here–but one who does NOT believe it’s my responsibility to individually shame people in the name of population health. People need to do what’s best/most appropriate for their own lives, and we need to improve systems to ensure that those best/most appropriate choices are more likely to be healthy ones.

                  Fed is best–end of story!

                4. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  How does widespread obesity affect your life? Does it mean we shouldn’t spread the message that it’s best if people eat healthy and exercise?

                5. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  Individually shaming people is one thing – it’s not the best strategy at all. Saying that it’s best when moms breastfeed (what the commenter said) is just common sense

                6. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                  Widespread obesity. A fair parallel.

                  Let me be clear on that one too: DON’T JUDGE PEOPLE!

                  See. It’s simple. Mind ya own damn business and stop concern trolling.

                7. Atalanta0jess

                  What about women who can’t even TRY because of things like trauma? Do they pass your test of acceptable ways of mothering?

                8. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  @I will kill people with this cricket bat, just one question, do you judge women who smoke and drink during pregnancy? Or is that an OK thing to judge people for?

                9. Greasy Spoon

                  It’s not up to you to “accept”. You are not the almighty arbiter of motherhood!

                10. Episkey

                  My baby hasn’t had a drop of formula in his 5.5 months of life. He started daycare at 3 months and has been sick for 1/2 that time. Just this past week he had pink eye AND an ear infection AND bronchiolos. Then I got pink eye. Then a sinus infection. Apparently my breastmilk is doing not very much to protect him from the bugs at daycare.

                11. ket

                  Yep, same with widespread obesity: work to make healthy food available to all, work to provide infrastructure that makes it convenient to exercise in the course of daily life, work to create workplaces where healthy food, healthy movement, and outdoor time are easy to get. Shame individual people for their bodies? Again, a poor look, as well as ineffective and counterproductive.

                12. Former Employee

                  “… its the women who don’t even try that I struggle to accept).”

                  Wow! What an inflated sense of self-importance, as if these women care if you accept them!

                13. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                  @I will kill people with this cricket bat, just one question, do you judge women who smoke and drink during pregnancy? Or is that an OK thing to judge people for?

                  First of all, you’re creating a false parallel between formula feeding and drinking/smoking.

                  On the second point, do I agree with their decision? Probably not. Do I understand it? It’s hard for me. Do I believe society should put in place systems and supports to help someone who cannot quit drinking/smoking during pregnancy? Hells yes.

                  But, is it my place to condemn or comment on a stranger’s choices? Nope. I’m not their doctor. I’m not their counsellor. I’m a stranger who needs to keep my damn mouth shut. I don’t know anything about their life and, as it turns out, I could be wrong and have made someone feel awful for no good reason.

                14. mrs__peel

                  If you talk judgmentally like this to people in your professional capacity, you are bad at your job and doing a great disservice to public health.

              2. Specialk9

                I thought that too. It’s unusual to have 3 people speaking in such a consistent voice, mom-shaming it apologies. (Though if there is any community that can lean that way, Mommy Warriors are one of the big ones.)

                1. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  Wait, what? Mom shaming? For saying that mothers should try to do their best for their wanted children? Do you feel it’s also none of anyone’s business if pregnant women smoke or drink alcohol?

                2. Detective Amy Santiago

                  It’s not your place to say that not breastfeeding is “trying to do their best” for their child. There are dozens of factors that go into making that decision and no one owes you an explanation for their choice.

                3. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  Of course no one owes me anything. But if the mom doesn’t even try what’s optimal for her baby (that she chose to have) then that’s not the best decision she makes.

                4. Oh come on

                  @Breastfeeding is healthy–Do you also follow people around if they’re drinking soda? Or walk into a McDonald’s and harass individual customers? Do you shame smokers on the sidewalk?

                  If you actually care about public health, then be disappointed in systems that fail to support moms. Advocate for better policies and funding to help them be their best. And then remind yourself that a lot of people out there might not approve of your choices — ones that might even impact public health — and leave you alone about it.

                  And if that’s not enough, take up knitting or something.

                5. Eye of Sauron

                  @Breastfeeding is healthy

                  Let me help…
                  Repeat the phrase “My Body My Choice, Her Body Her Choice, His Body His Choice”
                  See how easy that was… now do this anytime you feel the urge to impose your will on another person.

                  Notice I included men in this, it’s a useful phrase to use in every situation where you might be tempted to judge a grown, autonomous, sentient adult in choices concerning their body.

                6. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  I don’t follow anyone around anywhere. And I also advocate for better services for moms and babies. Thank you for your condensing tone, it’s appreciated.

                  You all just started piling up on the true statement that mothers are supposed to breastfeed if they can. Just the way people are supposed to exercise if they can and to not smoke. Saying this involves no following around, it’s just a true statement. Mothers are also supposed to vaccinate their children, would people pile up on someone saying this, too?

                7. Cat Supervisor

                  “You all just started piling up on the true statement that mothers are supposed to breastfeed if they can.” I didn’t realize this was codified into law. Why don’t you try minding your own business and try not judging people for a decision they come to on their own.

                8. fposte

                  @Breastfeeding–the thing is, “mothers should try to do the best for their children” doesn’t translate to “it’s bad for their children if they don’t breastfeed.” You’re superimposing an agenda onto something that is far from settled science. The benefits of breastfeeding in well-off populations with access to good medical support are virtually imperceptible. It’s *tons* better than formula if you don’t have access to clean water, but once you do have the benefit of resources, most of the claims for its superiority seem to be correlation rather than causation.

                9. Observer

                  @Breastfeeding is healthy – The thing is that you have no idea what is optimal for the baby. So, claiming that it’s ok to shame a woman because YOU decided that something is optimal for the kid, is not a good look.

                10. biobottt

                  @ Breastfeeding is healthy: You’re really REALLY hurting your case by equating drinking and smoking with formula feeding.

                11. Rana

                  “Breastfeeding is what’s optimal for the baby.”

                  No. What’s optimal for a baby is to be fed and cared for by a parent who feels supported and capable, and whose decisions about their body and their life are respected.

                  A formula fed baby who has an unstressed parent who feels confident in their parenting is better off than a breastfed one whose parent is stressed because they’re trying to fit their life into someone else’s idea of what A Mother should be.

                  I breastfed until age three, but I will NEVER shame a parent who makes a different decision about what to do with THEIR body. Bodily autonomy and consent apply to all humans – we don’t give up those rights just because a baby came out of us.

                  (And, as a side note, it’s worth noting that not all parents with breasts are women.)

                12. NLMC

                  Just join a Mom’s group on Facebook and you’ll see so many people with this “same voice.”
                  Did you know that moms not only get shamed for formula feeding but also for the type of water they use to make the formula? Tap vs. filtered vs. nursery water (???) vs. bottled water. It’s insane.

                13. getouttahere

                  I would, uh, yeah maybe judge someone for putting alcohol and nicotine in a baby bottle. Which is the only thing that is comparable here to smoking and drinking while pregnant.

              3. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                Oh, you have no idea how rabid the “breast is best” crowd can be. They’ll come out in droves to make a new mum feel awful for formula feeding her child. It’s just a delightful way to treat a struggling parent. Super supportive.

                1. SeuciaV

                  Apropos of exactly nothing, I am in love with your username. #WWforever

                  Also, agreed: mom shaming is stupid and counterproductive.

              4. Breastfeeding is healthy

                No, there are different people with the same opinion, imagine that. Breastfeeding is best for both mother and child. If a woman can’t do it for whatever reason, fine, but if she can and doesn’t even try, well, that’s not optimal for anyone. Women can choose whether to have a baby or not in today’s world, so if a woman chooses to get pregnant and carry the baby to term, why wouldn’t she want the best for her child?

                1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                  I’m going to say it louder for the people in the back…

                  IT’S NOT YOUR BODY THEREFORE IT’S NOT YOUR CHOICE. Your judgement helps no one. It only serve to hurt. Stop it.

                2. Breastfeeding is healthy

                  No judgement towards the women who struggle to breastfeed. Those that don’t even try? Not optimal for the baby.

                3. Disaster Voyeurism

                  Colen, C. G. & Ramey, D. M. (2014) found that when analyses incorporate comparison of siblings and within-family fixed effects, “estimates of the association between breastfeeding and all but one indicator of child health and wellbeing dramatically decrease and fail to maintain statistical significance. Our results suggest that much of the beneficial long-term effects typically attributed to breastfeeding, per se, may primarily be due to selection pressures into infant feeding practices along key demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status.”
                  Sorry, judgement against mothers who self-select to not breast feed doesn’t match all science.
                  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4077166/

                4. Agent Veronica

                  “Not optimal” is not the same thing as “absolutely necessary.” It’s not even close. And comparing the harm done by fetal alcohol syndrome or maternal drug use to the marginal/individual lack of breastfeeding benefit is disingenuous in the extreme. This kind of exaggeration, negativity and contempt is the exact opposite of education. It’s not about helping babies anymore—just about feeling superior.

                5. Spritely

                  Listen, if you’re cool with a woman who can’t breastfeed using formula, why can’t you be cool with a woman who doesn’t want to breastfeed using formula? If the baby who can’t breastfeed is going to grow up okay being fed formula, wouldn’t it stand to reason that ANY baby who is fed formula would grow up okay? The baby has no idea if Mom couldn’t breastfeed or just didn’t want to, so what the hell difference does it make?

                6. mb13

                  To answer your last question, have you considered the fact that after carrying a parasite in her body for over 9 month a mother might want five seconds to herself, in addition to regaining her personal autonomy and viewing her body as something more than a breeding cow? Pregnancy can be a beautiful and magical thing and also be a snuff film that would make Eli Roth blush. And sometimes a mother wants a break.

                  There are pro’s to breast-feeding, and there are very strong cons (one of them is some people don’t want to). However, there is no harm done by choosing formula so it is actually optimal for everyone. And there is a lot of harm with you keeping on commenting.

                7. Spritely

                  I’m just imaging this scenario:

                  Person: You MUST consume dairy for your bone and teeth health!
                  10-year-old: But I am allergic to dairy.
                  Person: Oh, okay. Well, there are supplements you can take and other foods you can eat to maintain your bone and teeth health.
                  Other 10-year-old: I am a vegan.
                  Person: How dare you! You CAN consume dairy and you choose not to?! You must consume the dairy! It is optimal for your health!
                  Other 10-year-old: But you just told that other kid he could get pretty much the same benefits from supplements and other foods.
                  Person: That’s because he physically can’t do what you can do!
                  Other 10-year-old: So what? If he will survive without dairy, so will I.

                8. Buckeye

                  When I was facing my own breastfeeding issues, my lactation consultant (who had studied the benefits of breast milk and the nuances of breast feeding) said to me “the only important thing here is that the baby is fed–formula or breast milk. Full tummy = healthy baby.”

                  The mom in question in this letter, as well as the many women who choose to formula feed, are not choosing something bad for their baby by giving them formula. If anything, they are ensuring that the child will be well-fed (as any mother who has tried breastfeeding will tell you that it has its own host of challenges.)

                  To suggest that giving a baby formula is refusing to do what’s “best” for your child is false and only continues to create unnecessary divides between breast and bottle ideologies.

                9. Observer

                  Well, obviously, if a woman does not want to nurse, then it is NOT “optimal” for her.

                10. biobottt

                  Formula is only best for her child if she’s physically unable to breastfeed? No. Breastfeeding has little to no benefit in areas with clean water. Other than that, the baby just needs to be fed.

                11. anon for this

                  here’s a list of people whose breastfeeding choices you have a legitimate opinion about:

                  1. you

                  that’s it! everyone else has their own list.

                12. Forrest

                  “but if she can and doesn’t even try, well, that’s not optimal for anyone.”

                  Seems like it’s optimal for the mom.

                  If you’re just going to run around saying this stuff, can you at least post evidence that breastfeeding is far superior than formula? Because from everything I’ve heard, there’s very little difference.

                13. A day in the zoo

                  Actually, it depends on how well the mother eats. To a certain extent this is an economic situation. Low wage workers cannot afford the nutritious food a baby needs. So, if the mom is eating poorly, the baby may be better off on formula. There is no one “right” or “wrong” answer here.

                  The other side of that, is that if a mom is not comfortable breastfeeding, it is not “best”. Best is what works for mom and baby.

                14. NLMC

                  @Buckeye – I couldn’t respond to you directly.
                  I really struggled with nursing my first and was ready to give up but wanted to at least see a Lactation Consultant first. I figured she would tell me breast feeding was the only way and I needed to try harder. Instead she told me that I needed to take care of myself and if I was this miserable I couldn’t care for my baby in the best way possible. That comment took all the pressure off of me. It didn’t magically become easier but it certainly helped my mental state by giving her some formula when I needed a break.

                15. Lehigh

                  A ton of people have commented here, including debating whether there is actually any significant benefit to breastfeeding, but even if we assume that you’re correct that there is one I want to point out that this is only one of MANY, MANY areas where you could say things like this but probably shouldn’t.

                  For example: Why would you choose to get pregnant and then let your young child watch TV? Why would you choose to get pregnant if your child will go to poor schools? Why would you choose to get pregnant if you’re not prepared to make homecooked meals every night of the week? Why would you choose to get pregnant if you have internalized misogyny, which you risk passing on to your child?

                  There are some cases in which case I agree one should not have a child–for example, if the parent is prone to fits of uncontrolled rage. But most people in this world do not have 100% perfect lives and that is okay.

                16. Penny Lane

                  It’s not best for mother if she hates it, feels trapped, is in awful pain. And she’s worth something, too.

                17. getouttahere

                  you know what is also not optimal for a baby? having a mom who is intentionally cruel to other moms.

                18. getoffmybreast

                  Folks who preach like this at women make me want to formula feed my future kids just BECAUSE.

                19. Mookie

                  Women can choose whether to have a baby or not in today’s world

                  Here’s another thing you’re wrong about.

            3. Ask a Manager Post author

              It’s not your business, and you normally won’t have any idea whether a woman tried or not. Please stop policing other women’s private, personal choices here. Thank you.

            4. Louise

              I’m sorry, are you literally every woman and baby’s doctor? No? Then guess what — you don’t get to say what’s best for mothers and their children.

            5. Guacamole Bob

              The problem I have with this stance is that it makes life *so much worse* for women who are having trouble with breastfeeding. How many hours a day of pumping do you need to put yourself through before you’re allowed to accept that your supply is insufficient? How many drugs and supplements and special teas and foods? How many lactation consultants do you need to see? How many pumps do you need to buy?

              Breastfeeding is not always either a “can” or a “can’t”, and this kind of rhetoric makes it very hard for women who are making themselves miserable with trying to make the switch to formula (or even supplementing) without guilt, even when it’s way better for the family overall because the mother has been spending all her time hooked up to a pump and crying and not sleeping instead of caring for herself and her baby.

            6. jo

              If formula is okay for babies for whom breast milk isn’t an option, then it’s okay for babies, period. And “trying” can do more harm than good; see my earlier comment above.

          2. Anonarama

            I know you don’t mean to, but your language implicitly opens the door for shaming people who don’t want to breast feed.

                1. Yer Science is Bad

                  Hint: you are not stating a fact.

                  As many people have pointed out your “facts” are scientifically untrue. What you’re stating is an opinion, based on ignorance and a poor understanding of the *actual* facts. That’s why you’re getting so much push-back.

                2. mrs__peel

                  Comments like “Why wouldn’t she want the best for her child?” above certainly look like shaming to any reasonable person.

                  FYI, if you want to actually talk about *facts*, the most recent studies on this issue with the best controls (looking at bottle-fed and breast-fed siblings with the same parents and socioeconomic backgrounds) show no significant differences in health outcomes between the two.

        5. GarlicMicrowaver

          Some people can’t. Mind your own business or shame someone else, somewhere else.

        6. What's with today, today?

          My body wouldn’t produce due to a chronic disease. I tried, my sweet son was losing weight and the doctor reminded me that Fed is Best. I already felt like a complete and utter failure b/c my body went into a debilitating flare from my emergency C-section, and I could barely do anything, much less breastfeed. I am very unhappy there are people who choose to say unhelpful and hurtful things.

          1. ket

            So much love to you. It is so hard to go through that, with all those things coming together. Those feelings of being betrayed by your body, for some; the feeling that “this should be natural…. and I can’t do it…”; watching your child fuss and panicking as he or she loses even more weight; trying to figure out what you can handle and reconcile what you can handle with what you imagined you’d be doing — I don’t know your experience but I’ve seen friends struggle with all of these.

            The “breast is best” folks should refocus to supporting moms. If moms are truly supported, a lot of breastfeeding will happen. Remember, though, that for all of human history some moms have not breastfed; today we have formula rather than wet nurses or water with a little bread mushed in, and thank God & science for what we’ve been able to develop.

          2. Elspeth

            Yeah, I had the same problem with my first child – no, you are NOT a failure – those who choose to shame and blame mothers who can’t (or even who don’t) want to breastfeed – are the failures – because it’s not their body and not their choice. I hate that any mother has to go through what you did. Jedi hugs to you.

        7. Legal Beagle

          Is this a parody account? You’ll just have to learn to deal with your unhappiness, because it’s 0% your business what other women choose to do with their bodies.

        8. Sketchee

          I think Allison’s advice applies here: “You can be privately disappointed … but you don’t have any standing to (a) show it or (b) be disappointed in her actual choices.”

          Certainly, it’s helpful to give information and advice when solicited about the benefits of breastfeeding.

          Your unhappiness about the resulting choices – whether it’s to decide not to hear your views on this information or whatever their final decision may be – remains for you to manage.

        9. Seriously?

          Actually, formula has significantly improved since it was first introduced. There have been multiple studies that have been done that show that there is no difference between formula fed babies and breastfed babies after 6 months. There is a small benefit within those first six months, but it is one factor out of many. For many women, it is actually safer to formula feed and that is a decision that they make with their partner and their doctor.

          1. Ophelia

            Furthermore (and I say this as someone who is still nursing kid #2 at 15 months, but have also had to supplement with formula with both kids thanks to their prematurity and my body), most of the good studies we have on breastfeeding and its effect on public health are from countries where access to clean water is not guaranteed. When you control for clean water and access to childhood vaccines, etc. and look just at high-income countries, most of the disparities between breastfeeding and formula feeding disappear. This is not to say that I wouldn’t love a public health policy in the US that actually supports parents who want to breastfeed by, say, institutionalizing paid family leave for all! But it also means that in the context of the US, breastfeeding might be statistically “best,” but it isn’t the only safe and healthy option, and there are a million valid reasons why a woman might choose not to do it.

        10. Hiring Mgr

          Hmmm, I was told the opposite–that breastfeeding doesn’t matter one way or the other to the health of the baby and most women do it just for use of the pumping room at their office where they can just relax, or have a drink or smoke or snack in addition to the pumping. /s

          1. SpaceySteph

            I’m just in it for the twice daily nipple massage and this very comfortable 1964 government issue chair.

              1. Sarah

                My MIL called my nursing bra “lingerie” while she was folding our laundry the other day. I about died laughing…I cannot imagine any type of undergarment that feels less like “lingerie” than a nursing bra.

          1. Salamander

            Exactly. Telling a mother how she’s supposed to feed her baby is hostile, judgmental, and really offensive.

          2. Lynn Whitehat

            Now imagine being a new mother, and getting this kind of preachy judgementalism in person, multiple times a day for months. And thinking work will be a refuge from it, because the focus is supposed to be on the job and not your breasts, and surprise! Your boss is noodging you too.

        11. Eye of Sauron

          LW is that you?

          I’m very unhappy to learn that there are so many people out there who feel they have a say in other’s bodies and parenting.

        12. Safetykats

          “I am very unhappy to learn?” Just wondering where you have been hiding all these years. The first commercial baby formula was produced by a precursor of Johnson & Johnson in 1912. Not breastfeeding is by no means a new thing.

          1. AthenaC

            “Not breastfeeding is by no means a new thing.”

            Yup – what IS a new thing (relatively new thing on the scale of history, anyway) is that not being able to breastfeed doesn’t mean a death sentence for the baby. Because of this great thing called – formula!

            1. Totally Minnie

              My father was born prematurely (weighing 3 pounds at birth), and his body was not able to digest breast milk. If soy formula had not existed, he would have died in infancy and I’d never have been born. So I’m pro feed your baby what you can feed him and what he can eat. If that’s breast milk, cool. Go, mom! If that’s formula, cool. Go, mom!

              1. Skunklet

                My husband’s grandfather, born in another country, lost his mother while he was still breastfeeding, due to TB…. b/c she knew she was dying, she was able to make arrangements w/another woman in the village that was nursing, to act as a wet nurse for her son – children, generally, at that time, died b/c formula had not been invented… so he survived, came here, and I have an awesome husband. Sad story but awesome at the same time…

              2. SeuciaV

                This was me too. I was allergic to all dairy products at birth and didn’t grow out of that until I was about six years old. Had it not been for soy formula I can’t imagine what my mother would have done. And I wasn’t born before WWI, I was born in 1976.

                I’m all for promoting and encouraging healthy choices and options but too many commenters are making wild assumptions about why the mother in this letter made the decision to bottle vs. breast feed. YOU DON’T KNOW. YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING. STOP JUDGING.

          2. Clorinda

            Even before then. plenty of women didn’t feed their own babies. A wealthy family could hire a wet nurse; a poor family with an orphaned infant or a dry mother would, I suppose, ask lactating neighbors and family to help.

          3. SimonTheGreyWarden

            And prior to then, you had wet nurses….usually because someone didn’t want to nurse, or socially couldn’t nurse, or because it was low class to nurse…and yes the baby was receiving breast milk, but let us not romanticize this image.

        13. SineNomine

          This is not accurate. There are countless studies showing that formula feeding is fine. What few differences have been shown almost entirely disappear when you control for the parent’s education and wealth. At best this thinking is ignorant and a bit tonedeaf.

          The most important thing anyone can do for their baby is love it. Formula is perfectly viable for providing nutrition for their baby, and no one should be made to feel embarassed or ashamed or less for it.

          1. Kathy

            There were millions of children born in the 1950s and 1960s who were not breast fed. Mothers were led to believe that formula was better for their babies and used formula. While I don’t agree with that theory, I’ve never seen a study showing these adults were somehow deficient (me being one of them) for not being breast fed.

            1. not really a lurker anymore

              My mother was considered a troublemaker by the nurses for wanting to breastfeed my older brother in 1966. When my younger brother was born in 1981, the nurses were happy to have a new mom that was an old hand at breastfeeding.

            2. Michaela Westen

              I was one of them, and I have a million allergies. :( As far as I know, I have not been counted in these studies.

              1. Spritely

                I was formula fed in the early 80s and never had an ear infection or allergies as a kid. I only have two allergies now – Irish Spring soap and Sudafed. Pretty sure those aren’t a result of not ingesting breastmilk.

              2. biobottt

                Well, more babies are probably being breastfed now than in the 50s/60s, but you know what else appears to be going up? The rate of childhood allergies. So maybe the connection is not as strong as you think.

              3. soon 2 be former fed

                Not one allergy her. Born in the mid fifties, formula fed. BF my child, who has allergies. Anecdata is of little value.

                1. Teapot Tester

                  Yep, my oldest was breastfeed for 1 year, and he got formula on occasion (like, I could probably count on both hands how many times), and he has asthma and allergies. My youngest also a year, he has neither.

                  Alternately, my sister and I were both adopted and formula fed. Sis has allergies and asthma and a host of other medical problems, and like my son, I am as healthy as a horse.

                  Anecdotes mean nothing.

                2. Effective Immediately

                  Yep. I exclusively breastfed my son and he has a bunch of allergies. As does his father, also exclusively breastfed.

                  My sister and I were both exclusively formula fed; zero allergies whatsoever.

              4. Lara

                There is no scientific link between formula and allergies. You likely have allergies due to genetics.

            3. mrs__peel

              Yep, the entire Baby Boomer-age portion of my family was bottle-fed because it was considered more “scientific” back in the ’50s and ’60s.

        14. Anonarama

          I want you to know that I’m not breastfeeding my infant and while your happiness had nothing to do with my decision, I am THRILLED to know that you are very unhappy about it!

        15. Teapot Tester

          No you are supposed to support women in their decisions. There are so many reasons why someone can’t breastfeed, but even if the reason is “I don’t want to” that’s good enough. You have no right to judge.

        16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          I used to think that. I breastfed my two children for a total of 26 months.

          Now they are 22 and 25 years old, and I honestly cannot tell you whether breastfeeding has made “a huge difference in their health” or not. Looking at other young people their age, whose mothers were unable or chose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, I really don’t think I could tell the difference.

          I also received a mix of shaming and pitying comments from the well-meaning friends in my mommy social circles, when, back in the day, my older son quit breastfeeding at 5 months old. Of course I felt terrible, and kept apologizing to all of them. 25 years later I am puzzled as to why it was such a big deal to me, but more importantly, to my friends. Can we not do this to each other? It really REALLY does not matter in the grand scheme of things, and either way, this is a work-advice forum, not a mommyshaming one.

          1. Hrovitnir

            :( I’m sorry you were made to feel that way. It breaks my heart seeing people struggle with breastfeeding and feel like a failure when it doesn’t work. How can anyone possibly think that making the primary caregiver feel like crap is helpful for babies? If we’re looking at factors in optimal child rearing I feel like good support for parents has got to be pretty high up there.

        17. ScienceLady

          I am a huge advocate for science-driven statements, so here is a great study to illustrate some evidence that it doesn’t matter what you feel – as JellyB said, all you MUST do is feed your baby! The study below (which you can search online) noted that when most variables are controlled, many of the benefits of breastfeeding are minimized. Here’s the fun part though – it works great for some people! Some mothers love it! Some mother’s don’t! And a happy parent is usually a better parent.

          Golen, C.G. & Ramey, D.M. (2014). Is Breast Truly Best? Estimating the Effect of Breastfeeding on Long-term Child Wellbeing in the United States Using Sibling Comparisons. Society of Science and Medicine (109); 55 – 65. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.027

          1. Sarah

            Yes to this! When you look at the actual science, it is clear that breastmilk has a strong advantage…if you live somewhere with contaminated water. Surprise surprise, making formula with poisoned water is not great for babies! But that is not the situation moms in the U.S. are dealing with! As it turned out, I was super lucky that breastfeeding has been easy for me, I have a supportive workplace, and I enjoy it (most of the time). But honestly, that’s just it — luck (and some good breastfeeding genes from my mom — she says it was very easy for her too). Breastfeeding works great for our family, but I don’t think my kid has some great advantage over other kids who are getting fed with formula! Honestly you really cannot even tell other than at the time they are being fed. It is no one’s business how a baby is being fed as long as both mom and baby are happy with the situation and baby is growing well.

              1. Jen

                Actually lead is a contaminant easily passed through breastmilk so formula made with being bottled water would be safer than breastmilk from a woman drinking flint mi water

          2. Thoughts

            This needs repeating:
            And a happy parent is usually a better parent.
            And a happy parent is usually a better parent.
            And a happy parent is usually a better parent.

        18. Ugh.

          I am very unhappy to learn that there are people who would choose to issue blanket statements about how other people should raise their children and live their lives with no regard for the wide range of needs and experiences people other than themselves have had or will have.

          So I guess we’re both having a bad day.

        19. Koivu

          Why does this affect your happiness? There are so many other things in this world to be unhappy about. Be upset about the chemical attacks in Syria. Don’t be upset about how a mother decides to feed her child. Plus, breastfeeding *can* make a difference in a child’s health – but is by no means the only factor. One of my children who was breastfed has all kinds of medical problems. My one child that wasn’t breastfed is the healthiest of all my kids. I wasn’t breastfed and I’m the healthiest person I know.

        20. Short fuse

          I was told to switch my son to formula because he would otherwise starve. Formula was invented for a reason.

        21. I will kill people with this cricket bat

          You are supposed to feed your child. Full stop. The rest of this shamming non-sense is the kind of bullshit that had me crying in Ikea as I worried the other mum feeding her baby was judging me for giving mine a bottle.

          In retrospect, I was perhaps a bit emotional and would now tell anyone to mind their own business. As a bonus, my kid is alive and didn’t die of starvation. YAY ME!

        22. Penny Lane

          No one really cares that *you* are unhappy that women don’t breastfeed. Many women don’t wish to, and that is 100% their business and 0% yours.

        23. Indoor Cat

          Dude, I know for a fact that I wasn’t breastfed, and I’m fine.

          Tina Fey never breastfed and her daughter’s fine (I know this because she’s open about it in her Bossypants book).

          There are a lot of reasons women don’t breastfeed, not the least of which is they have a hormonal imbalance (lack of pectin) which makes breastfeeding literally impossible. That’s pretty common, actually! Also, I knew a guy at my high school who could lactate, and he’d squirt breastmilk at people as a prank. It weirded me out at the time, but I Googled it and it turns out that 9% of dudes actually have enough naturally occurring pectin to lactate (although, please do not squirt your friends, even as a prank).

          Other reasons: maybe the baby can’t drink breast milk because they’re sick, maybe breastfeeding is painful and people just want to opt out, breastfeeding takes time and the mom wants to spend that time on other things.

          Just, no need to judge this. It’s a personal choice and both choices are good.

          1. Wehaf

            I think you mean prolactin, not pectin. The former is for making breastmilk (among other things); the latter is for making jams and jellies. :)

        24. Ex Humanities student

          No, you’re not. No, it doesn’t, not that much, especially in the Western world. And who cares that you’re unhappy about what people choose to do? I am unhappy that people like you choose to judge other people’s choices.

        25. mb13

          You are supposed to not be stupid. Being stupid makes a huge difference in your health! I am very unhappy to learn there are people who choose not to do it.

        26. You can’t be serious

          Interesting, since comparatively my neighbors son who is close to my child in age is sick significantly more often than my child has ever been and he was breastfed until he was 2 but my child was basically exclusively formula fed. Breastfeeding is a good thing, so is formula feeding because guess what feeding period is good. There are way more factors in life that will contribute to health than whether a child was breastfed or not. These opinions are so problematic and unnecessary since a mothers choice about how they feed their infant has literally zero effect on your everyday life. You do not get to chose for people and shaming people for making choices that differ from your opinion says more about you than it does about those moms.

        27. Mom of a Healthy Kid

          Comments like this are what led me to sob for hours as a new mom. I tried so hard to breastfeed, and just couldn’t. I finally gave up after 8 weeks when my daughter’s pediatrician recommended I stop because it was taking so much time away from bonding with my baby. I felt like a failure, but in retrospect I recognize that my daughter and I both would have been better off if I had focused on healing from my 48 hour induction + c-section, and spending time with her rather than forcing something that was not working from Day 1.

          You are failing to recognize the significant amount of effort breastfeeding takes, even in the best of circumstances. Mothers lose a lot of sleep, and a lot of freedom, compared to fathers if they are exclusively responsible for feeding a newborn. Yes, as a mom with a very wanted baby I wanted to do what was best for her, but there have to be limits for the mother’s health and sanity. Can you imagine what it is like waking up every two hours for months while trying to recover from major surgery? And pumping for 30 minutes (plus time to wash the pump parts) each time? I wasn’t able to get more than 1 hour of sleep at a time for 2 months. It was truly one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and the immense societal pressure to succeed, coupled with exaggerated fears that my daughter’s health would suffer if I failed, did not help.

          I will almost certainly choose not to breastfeed after my second child is born, and I think both of my children will be better off with a mom who is alert and happy. Thank goodness for our wonderful pediatrician, who assures me that formula is perfectly fine. And for my fabulous employer, which was happy to provide me with whatever leave or pumping facilities I needed, and also let me make my own decisions on which of those options to use.

          1. The PM

            As the mom of 2 under 3, I totally agree with your approach. Your kids are lucky to have you!

          2. Guacamole Bob

            I hear you. I remember only bits and pieces of my twins’ first few weeks of life. I was pumping and nursing and bottle feeding in a cycle that guaranteed I wouldn’t sleep more than two hours at a time, and often more like 90 minutes. I was a barely-functioning zombie, recovering from a difficult pregnancy and an unplanned c-section. If I could go back and swap in someone else giving my kids some formula now and then so I could sleep and possibly retain some of those memories instead, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

            It’s not an exaggeration to say that breastfeeding took away my ability to enjoy my kids’ newborn phase and contributed significantly to my postpartum depression. I cried through most of their infancy, and resented the babies and thought that becoming a parent had destroyed my life for months. Can anyone honestly say that the breastmilk they got was better for them than formula and a happier mother would have been?

          3. PSB

            I just want to second everything you said. Before my son was born, my wife planned to breastfeed him. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t work out and he was fully bottle-fed from birth. Bottle feeding gave him a consistent source of fluid and nutrients after an unexpected medical condition, which let him recover and regain weight quickly. It also let us take turns feeding him at night. Since he was getting a full feeding each time, he only needed one middle of the night feeding, so one of us would take the late night and early morning feedings and the other would take the middle of the night. The next night we’d switch. We both managed around five hours of sleep every night until he started sleeping through the night – at eight weeks.

            It also let me take him out of the house to run errands with me on the weekend, which gave my wife several quiet hours to rest and gave me extra time to spend with him. She had severe postpartum depression. I was pushed to go back to work before we were ready and the circumstances around his medical condition prompted a pretty deep depression for me, too. Those late night feedings and weekend outings were the greatest thing in the world for all three of us.

            A few times, strangers in public commented on me feeding him formula. I wanted to cram the bottle down their throats.

            Ten years later, he’s brilliant, kind, healthy, and the tallest in his class. Saturday morning errands are still our thing. If nothing else, formula feeding helped us keep our sanity, balance the workload, and let me spend way more time with him. Even without the clinical reasons for not breastfeeding, switching to formula was totally worth it.

            (BTW, the greatest thing our pediatrician ever told us was that he could have his bottles at room temperature. It honestly never occurred to us that they didn’t have to be warmed up.)

            1. Michaela Westen

              I would NEVER comment on the way a stranger in public feeds their baby! How RUDE.

          4. SavannahMiranda

            “Can you imagine what it is like waking up every two hours for months while trying to recover from major surgery? And pumping for 30 minutes (plus time to wash the pump parts) each time? I wasn’t able to get more than 1 hour of sleep at a time for 2 months. It was truly one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and the immense societal pressure to succeed, coupled with exaggerated fears that my daughter’s health would suffer if I failed, did not help.”

            THIS. So much this.

            I had a breakdown around Week 3 and went on strike. Sobbing, screaming, sitting on the floor strike.

            There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture. And there is absolutely no excuse in heaven, hell, or god’s green earth why women are shamed into doing whatever it takes not to have complete and utter mental, emotional and physical breakdown.

            It’s cute to talk about ‘having support.’ And ‘support’ is a pretty word, but ultimately empty of meaning when literally no one else can attach the violating machine or the fighting, screaming, pushing away infant to their body for the umpteenth time in 24 hours and sob their way through the experience for you.

            I became a different person. One who screamed. One who tore out of the house sobbing and drove away at 3:00 in the morning. One who threw things and broke them. One who was cruel. To my partner. And to my child. I was dangerous.

            I finally had to take a hard, cruel line (cruel TO ME) and decide that I was ‘sacrificing’ my child’s…amorphous whatever, in order to literally not lose my everloving godforsaken mind. So that I might *survive.*

            And that was a lie. It was a lie that put me in the position of thinking I was doing something wrong by my child. It was a cruelty that made me think I was failing him, myself, and my partner by having compassion for my fundamental human requirements.

            I see now it was a lie. It was always a lie. And I wish so badly I could go back in time, just 6 months ago, and put my arms around myself. And stand there and rock myself. And shush myself. And let myself cry. And tell myself it was going to be okay. And that I was doing the right thing. That I was making a choice of courage and compassion.

            But that isn’t what we’re told. Is it.

            May all the misogynistic Breast Shamers of every ilk and stripe kneel down and hang their heads in in shame before women who are doing the absolute best they can, and for whom formula is is sanity, compassion, and courage.

        28. Greasy Spoon

          No. You are supposed to do what works for you, your baby and your life. Shaming people for making the choices that work FOR THEM is revolting. Don’t be that jerk!

          And no one cares that it makes you unhappy. That’s YOUR problem, honey.

        29. Michaela Westen

          Ok. I’m not saying a baby has to be exclusively breastfed. I’m not saying it has to be from breast to mouth – it could be pumped and put in a bottle.
          It’s clear and has been known for a while that getting even small amounts of breast milk into the baby make a difference in the person’s health.
          I may have some personal feelings on this because I have a lot of allergies that are very challenging. I wasn’t able to find out if I was breastfed. My mother got defensive and said she couldn’t remember.
          My brother *was* breastfed – we’ve seen pictures of it – and he has no allergies.
          Thanks Mom.

          1. Kella

            There is no evidence that you are more likely to have allergies if you are breastfed than if you are formula fed. There is no evidence that breast milk results in better health for a baby than formula. When I say evidence, I’m talking about scientific studies, not anecdotal experience. As several dozen comments have already said in this thread, there are many reasons women can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, that includes not pumping. The fact that you feel hung up about your allergies and blame your mom maybe not breast feeding is really no one else’s business but yours, and has nothing to do with another woman’s choice whether or not to breast feed.

            1. Michaela Westen

              All the studies, govt. health pages and such I’ve seen, say there’s a link between not breastfeeding and allergies.

              1. biobottt

                There may be a link on a populational level, but it doesn’t mean that if a specific kid has allergies you know for sure that formula feeding made them happen. And because allergies are so complex, you definitely can’t say that breastfeeding will prevent them in a specific kid either. I know from looking at kids in my own family that breast feeding is not some magical panacea for all health issues.

                You do NOT know for sure that your (possible) lack of breast milk is causally linked to your health issues.

              2. MatKnifeNinja

                FWIW…….
                My DD received breastmilk exclusively the first year. I had to pump it all. Then she received breast milk while introducing other food for the next 6 months. I avoided ALL top 8 food allergens the whole time.

                I did this to avoid pricey elemental formula and avoid a blood bath with my insurance’s DME. If my insurance wouldn’t have been douche bag overlords, I would have gladly gave DD formula.

                I was overseen by a top big deal university allergist. Still am.

                Guess what? DD’s allergic to trees, pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts.

                Back in 2004, avoiding alleged triggers while breast feeding was thought to be the best. Now…the doctor’s aren’t so sure. My family has a huge history of food allergies, and both my brother and sister developed allergies to peanuts, nuts and shrimp at age 40.

                Instead of busting your mom’s chops on theories that aren’t so solid anymore, why don’t you look at current food allergy/allergy theories. Breast feeding only doesn’t save you from developing food allergies later on in life. That was what my allergist (big deal specialist) told me last week.

                Mommy Wars suck. My SIL never breast fed because she told me her husband wanted her boobs back. He didn’t want her to obsess over feeding their kid. The child was born last year. I told her as long as the kid was fed, and everyone was happy, who cares?

                1. Michaela Westen

                  Yes, I’ve seen all this in the Annals of Allergy. It’s frustrating that we’re never quite sure with these theories about the immune system. That’s where we need to think for ourselves and use common sense.
                  Example: My allergist told me now they’re giving regular flu shots to people with IgE egg allergy because they don’t usually get reactions. I will never believe that’s ok.

                2. TL -

                  @Michaela – people do actually do lots of research and use science and controlled studies and risk-benefit analysis and the expertise of doctors/nurses/scientists who deal with patients and/or allergies all day every day to make these decisions.

                  You don’t have to agree; you can make whatever decisions you want for yourself. But just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It (usually) just means you’re not an expert.

                3. Michaela Westen

                  @TL, MatKnifeNinja describes the kind of situation I mean. At the time she was nursing the experts thought avoiding common allergens was the thing to do.
                  Now 10 years later, they’ve reversed that.
                  Allergies are not very well understood and won’t be for a while, but we still have to take care of ourselves and our families, so we have to do our best to think for ourselves and do the research.
                  In the example of the flu shots, I expect this stance will be reversed in a few years. Meanwhile, if I was in charge of a child with severe IgE egg allergy, I would *not* follow this recommendation!
                  We have to do this not just with allergies, with everything that may be ambiguous.

                4. Michaela Westen

                  P.S. – “allergic to trees, pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts.”
                  I would be thrilled if these were my only allergies!

                5. Mookie

                  so we have to do our best to think for ourselves and do the research.

                  “Research” is not an individual person reading things on the internet or in the library. Pretending we are all equal authorities on every subject is a very dangerous game.

              3. RainbowBrite

                I have allergies, my sister doesn’t. We were both formula fed. Can you tell me why that would be the case?

          2. Bekx

            My brother *was* breastfed – we’ve seen pictures of it – and he has no allergies.

            I was bottle fed because of reasons that I do not need to share on a public forum and I have 0 allergies so……………….

          3. You can’t be serious

            Breastfed neighbor: yeah he has about 5 life threatening allergies that he has to have an epi pen for. Correlation does not equal causation.

            And for what it’s worth, for anyone who doesn’t want to breastfeed for their own reasons, pumping is not easy and not all women respond to a pump.

            You aren’t allergic to all the things just because your mom may or may not have breastfed you.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              Pumping is HARD. I have done it my son’s whole yearlong life. I absolutely WOULD NOT do it again if I could go back and knew he’d never nurse…and I’m a lucky mom with an oversupply who donated nearly 400lbs of milk total to milk banks because I respond to the pump, with an additional 2 months supply frozen at home just for BabyWarden. Mastitis, thrush, the fact that I’ve been in near constant nipple pain for a year, no bras fit, everything is covered in a fine layer of milk…. My son is more than worth it, but holy hell is it the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. If we have a second and they don’t latch, I am not doing it again.

          4. PhillyKate

            I was breastfed and have a whole slew of medical issues.
            What women choose to do with their bodies is their own personal business- NO one else’s.

          5. bookarts

            If you want to start thanking people for what they have or have not done with their bodies, have you thanked your mother for the calcium you took from her bones when you were a fetus in her uterus? In the light you are shining here, her osteoporosis is your fault.

          6. Michaela Westen

            I’m glad to learn formula has been improved and is helping to close the health gap between breast and formula feeding.
            It sounds like there are studies contradicting and rationalizing the original ones. I’m still going to believe the original studies that breast-feeding is best, when possible. I’m glad formulas are better.
            I wasn’t trying to shame or judge anyone. Just mentioning that breast-feeding is important.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              I’m still going to believe the original studies.

              That is not how citing scientific evidence works.

              1. getouttahere

                You know original studies showed that women would not be able to endure travel by train because their lady parts would be damaged by the high speeds of up to 40mph. I know science has progressed since then, but I still believe those OG studies, because I’m not taking any chances with these lady parts.

                1. Effective Immediately

                  Oh my god, I’m dying!

                  (not from train forces, from this comment, just to be clear)

            2. ExcelJedi

              Why would you continue to only look at one set of scientific data, knowing that the data is varied and not always clear-cut? The fact that it came first shouldn’t mean anything, especially if those studies were done with lower quality formula which are not up to contemporary standards (I personally have no idea if they were or not). Is it because they adhere to your biases and experience?

              Science is there (in part) to clear away the noise and clutter of anecdotal evidence. Picking and choosing which studies to believe undermines that effort.

            3. Legal Beagle

              Believe what you want. Anecdata is not data. And your opinion is not rare or new; pregnant women are more than aware of the societal pressures around breastfeeding.

            4. Michaela Westen

              Has anyone else noticed that almost anything can be “proven” with a study? For almost anything there are studies that support it and studies that contradict it. I reach a point where I have to think for myself and use common sense, because the studies cancel each other out.

              1. Drop Bear

                Lets jump over the point that almost anything can be proven by a study only if you believe all studies are equally valid. Deciding to think for yourself and use common sense instead of valid data is of course your right-just keep in mind that a key word in this statement is YOURSELF.

              2. LiveAndLetDie

                There’s this thing called scientific advancement where technologies and methodologies get better over time and we can observe and study things we were previously unable to study.

                So if there was a study done in 1970 about formula and a study done in 2005 about formula that contradicts it, you want the 2005 study.

              3. Hrovitnir

                Buddy, while breast feeding (mostly in the early stages) may help avoid the development of allergies it most certainly is not the overriding factor.* Science is a continuously evolving thing, and virtually nothing biological is black and white.

                *Immunology is a young field full of exciting new concepts to explore, and something as complex as allergies is absolutely multifactorial. The two major hypotheses as far as I’m aware are the hygiene hypothesis and the counter-regulation hypothesis, and neither of them are to do with breast feeding.

                1. Hrovitnir

                  Getting an open-access review wasn’t really a happening thing, unfortunately. This is a relatively easy to read section of a 2013 review:* https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/780614_4

                  *I assume there will be some terminology that’s not clear to laypeople: an important concept going in is that immune T cells have many subtypes that have very different activities. Tc (cytotoxic) cells kill directly, Th (helper) cells stimulate different immune responses, and special Th cells, Tregs, are anti-inflammatory.

                  It’s likely that allergies, among other things, are significantly to do with the individual Th bias individuals develop. This bias is clearly related to a tonne of variables, including gut microbiome, which relates both to breastfeeding and exposure to a variety of microbes and novel proteins from a young age.

                  This might be a bit heavy for non-biologists/immunologists, but it’s a 2016 review and you can read the whole thing! https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40629-016-0118-0

                  (Sorry to ramble. I love immunology; hopefully at least some people find this interesting.)

            5. Detective Amy Santiago

              I still believe the Earth is flat because scientists in the 1600s believe it. Obviously there is no such thing as scientific advancement.

            6. Salamander

              Bottle-fed here. No allergies whatsoever, and I’m very, very healthy. I’m sure as heck not going to complain to my mother that she didn’t do “the best thing” for me, in anyone’s outdated and scientifically unsupported opinion.

              I mean, if she *had* breastfed me, I’d probably have super-strength, heat vision, and a whole host of other superhuman capabilities. Hmm. Maybe she and I should have a talk…

          7. biobottt

            Give your mom a break. I know at least four young kids who were breast-fed exclusively until solid foods were introduced who have multiple food allergies. You have no proof whatsoever that breastfeeding would have prevented your health issues.

          8. Drop Bear

            Personal feelings and anecdotes are not evidence. Trying to impose your view of the world on others by shaming them with emotive language and bad science is low – deal with your feelings for your mother in private perhaps. And I say this as someone who breastfed all my children for at least two years each, not as someone trying to defend what you see as a poor parenting choice.

          9. Sarah

            And, I was breastfed for 2 years (!) and still ended up with allergies. Your personal experience is not a scientific study! The science is just not there to show that formula causes allergies.

          10. Observer

            Well, if you really think that THE reason you have allergies is because you were not breastfed, you are quite ignorant. Really. And, any medical practitioner who has not tried to disabuse you of the notion is performing medical malpractice. Because while there does seem to be some correlation between nursing and allergy rates, it is completely and totally obvious that there is NOT a straight line or direct causation involved. There are millions of formula fed babies who do NOT have allergies, and millions of nursed babies who DO have allergies – some of the quite severe.

            1. Bagpuss

              Not to mention, it’s way more complicated than that. I was initially breastfed and then was given formula as well, as I was not thriving.

              I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think that maybe the reasons I was not thriving might be some of the *same* reasons I have allergies and other health issues; I just wasn’t a very healthy baby.

              We’re much better at keeping sick and premature babies alive than we used to be, but that does mean that there are a lot of us who are alive, but who may have health issues from all the things that didn’t kill us, and the medical treatments that saved our lives.

              I know plenty of children who were breast fed and have allergies, and plenty who were bottle fed and don’t.

              And that is before you even start to think about the long and short term effect on a child of a mother who is content and relaxed, against one who is stressed, exhausted, short of sleep etc.

              Ultimately, whether or not a baby is breast fed is no-one’s business except the mother’s, as long as the baby is fed, and she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation as to whether she can’t breast feed, doesn’t feel comfortable doing so.

              I don’t have children, but I have several friends who were unable to breast feed and who who bullied really badly, primarily by other women including a midwife, as a result. No one should be treated that way.

          11. Agent Veronica

            Given that the number of kids with allergies and/or obesity is rising right alongside the rates of breastfeeding—your anecdote is meaningless.

            Signed, someone who was bottle-fed and is only allergic to cats.

          12. Forrest

            My sister was breastfed and I wasn’t.

            Guess which one of us has no allergies? (Spoiler alert: Me.)

            Check and mate.

          13. Sis29

            I breastfed my son for 11 months. He is now 31 and has has severe seasonal allergies and asthma since elementary school. Who should he blame for that?

            Seriously, stop.

          14. Andrea Phillips

            I breastfed both of my kids for two full years, exclusively for over six months, and they both have serious allergies — some life-threatening. Just putting that out there.

          15. TL -

            I was breastfed – exclusively – and I have a whole ton of allergies while my brothers don’t. Thanks, Mom.

          16. whingedrinking

            Would it change your perspective if you found out that your mom actually couldn’t produce enough milk to feed you, or had terrible post-partum depression and could barely get out of bed? Or if your family needed money, so she had to go back to work?

            1. Jule

              Question seconded. Of course, it’s hard to imagine someone confiding serious emotional information to someone who has already accused and villainized them, so the commenter is probably safe assuming she’ll never find out.

          17. StarlingSparrow

            My mom breast fed me. Then a year and a half later my brother was born and she exclusively formula fed him because I had chewed my mom’s nipples raw and she didn’t want to deal with that again. I have a mango allergy, a penicillin family allergy, a Motrin allergy, and lactose sensitivities. My brother has no allergies whatsoever and no sensitivities. So don’t shame mothers because you think your personal experiences are scientific facts.

          18. Mad Baggins

            “My mother got defensive and said she couldn’t remember.”
            Your poor mother! She probably got tons of unwarranted feedback about her feeding choices back then, and now she’s getting it years later–from her own child!
            Maybe you should be grateful that she was able to feed you at all, since we have not always been so lucky to have good formula as a substitute.

          19. Cornflower Blue

            I was breastfed. I am allergic enough to DUST that I constantly have a stuffy nose, am coughing, sneeze frequently and sometimes sneeze so much I have trouble breathing. Dust, btw, is everywhere. There’s no way to tailor my diet/life to avoid it short of living in a clean room which is not an option because I need to actually work.

            Anytime I get a cold or even a little ill, I’m put on asthma inhalers because breathing becomes a genuine struggle.

            And, again, I was breastfed. Breastmilk doesn’t guarantee freedom from allergies.

        30. Observer

          So here is the thing. Even if it is truly and completely a free choice based on nothing more than “I can’t be bothered” it is NOT your business. And it is CERTAINLY not the business of the boss!

          In this context nothing else matters!

        31. Bonky

          My obstetrician, who was on the team who delivered the royal babies, said to me when I was worrying that I might not be able to breastfeed that HE was bottlefed, and he turned out just fine, career, brain and everything-else wise…

          Whatever your own preferences, they’re just that. Preferences, and your own. Keep your nose in your own business.

              1. Zombeyonce

                Exactly this. We don’t care about your opinion on the benefits of breastfeeding. We care if you try to make women feel bad about making choices that are best for their family.

        32. biobottt

          Plenty of formula-fed babies (probably most) do amazingly well. The impacts of breastfeeding are not as cut-and-dried as proponents like to think. It mostly makes a big impact in areas where a lack of clean water supply can make formula a carrier for bacteria.

        33. Susana

          And I’m very unhappy to be reminded there are people out there who think it’s their place to make this decision for other women.

          1. Michaela Westen

            No, I don’t make this decision for others. I was expressing my thoughts. I would be put off by knowing a mother didn’t even try to breastfeed, but I would keep it to myself.

            1. Penny Lane

              Why does it matter that you are put off by it? I’m put off that you don’t have a PhD or a fully funded college fund for your kids. What’s the matter, are you happy with being suboptimal?

              1. biobottt

                Right? I’m certain that everyone who is so worried about breast milk being absolutely the most optimal thing for the baby have not totally optimized every aspect of their lives.

            2. Michaela Westen

              The new mother isn’t on this site. It’s her boss who wrote in. Unless OP decides to tell her about this, she’s not going to see it.

              1. LiveAndLetDie

                Never mind all the other people in the comments who have spoken about how they either chose not to breastfeed or were unable to for some reason or another. You’re walking around with a defunct logic board.

              2. mrs__peel

                Maybe she isn’t, but you’re perfectly happy to shame and judge the other parents on this page, apparently…

            3. Buckeye

              You would be put off by the mom even if the child was healthy, well-adjusted, and developmentally on target?

              The “perks” of breastfeeding are always presented as: better for baby’s health, better for baby’s attachment to mom, and better for baby’s IQ. So if a formula-fed baby hits all of these milestones, what difference does it make what it ate?

            4. bonkerballs

              Except since you’ve made several judgey comments here to a comment section full of mothers who chose to formula feed, you’re clearly not keeping it to yourself.

        34. moi

          You are supposed to mind your own business. I am very unhappy to learn there are people who choose not to do it.

        35. iglwif

          I nursed my kiddo for more than 4 years, and am a huge advocate for nursing mums, and I find your comment judgy and inappropriate and kind of gross.

          Also? I’m not sure where you’ve been hanging out that you are just learning that “there are people who choose not to do it”, because formula feeding is not exactly a new idea …

          1. Michaela Westen

            I had gotten the impression that breastfeeding was getting more common and formula feeding less common. Mainly because I work at a hospital where an info sheet is given to every new mother about the benefits of breastfeeding, and help is provided to get her started.

            1. biobottt

              So why are allergy rates in children rising, if breastfeeding is some magical, definite cure-all?

              1. Michaela Westen

                Two of the known causes are chlorine derivatives in the environment and tap water, and phthalates from vinyl and plastic. Heating food in plastic realeases phthalates that leach into the food. Vinyl floors and wall coverings around small children who are always putting their hands in their mouths. Vinyl fumes like the nasty smell when you open a new vinyl shower curtain.

                1. biobottt

                  But why haven’t the rising rates of breastfeeding prevented this, if breastfeeding is so powerful?

                2. Michaela Westen

                  I suppose it’s because breastfeeding is one of several factors, which also explains why some formula-fed babies don’t get allergies.
                  One factor is that almost all prepared food, including baby food, has chemicals in it.
                  Also chemicals in the environment.
                  Stress in childhood and in the womb has been shown to increase allergies.
                  I’m not sure if any studies have been done on this, but I expect poor nutrition in early childhood is also a factor.
                  Poor nutrition isn’t confined to the economically poor, either. It’s about whether the parents make an effort to feed a balanced diet of fresh healthy food.

                3. biobottt

                  Yes, the cause of allergies is very complicated, so it’s bizarre that you’re so obsessed with breast feeding.

                4. TL -

                  a) those aren’t known causes of allergies
                  b) water…is a chemical? Water is in nearly everything? Are we blaming allergies on water?

                5. Just Another Techie

                  Stress in childhood. Like the stress of having a mother who cries every time she feeds the child, resents the child, and doesn’t bond with the baby? Did you know having a depressed parent is considered and Adverse Childhood Event, and your ACE score is the single biggest predictor of depression, joblessness, incarceration, and a whole host of illnesses? Healthy parents have healthy children, and the mom’s mental health is just as important, if not more so, than anything else.

                  And you know what one of the risk factors for PPD is? Difficulty breastfeeding! New moms need compassion and encouragement to feed baby however they can. The intense pressure to breastfeed is bad for women and bad for babies.

                  And I say this as someone who struggled to feed my tiny premie because his mouth just wasnt big enough to take my breast. He was losing weight and getting sicker and I was convinced having a child was the worst decision I’d ever made and wished I could take it back. I’m indescribably grateful for the lactation consultants and pediatricians who pushed me to just give him bottles (mixed pumped breastmilk and formula, until my supply caught up to his needs). He got better and bigger, and I was able to relax and stop approaching feeding time with dread and anger. Now at four months he’s exclusively breastfed, and I don’t think that would be possible if I had been shamed or bullied about using formula in the first month.

                  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html

                  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617

                6. Mookie

                  I suppose

                  That’s not science, you “supposing” something out of thin air.

                  One factor is that almost all prepared food, including baby food, has chemicals in it.
                  Also chemicals in the environment.

                  All matter is chemicals. You are made up of chemicals. Your scientific illiteracy is showing and you are parroting known woo.

            2. Zombeyonce

              Oh god, you work in a hospital?! I really hope you don’t spread your “well-meaning” opinions about breastfeeding to vulnerable women that just gave birth. I’m hoping you’re not a labor & delivery doctor or nurse and that these poor women get to make their own decisions without being shamed by you.

                1. Short fuse

                  I had about four lactation consultants visit me in the hospital. Their advice was contradictory. One told me BF babies don’t have reflux, but my baby did. Another told me BF babies do get reflux, but my baby wasn’t latching properly. Then I finally met one who mad me cry. I left feeling confused and like a failure. I am eternally grateful to my OBGYN and my baby’s first pediatrician telling me that fed is best. A happy mother is best. He is happy and healthy. That’s the goal, right?

            3. mrs__peel

              If you work in a hospital, then you should know better than to think shaming individuals is appropriate or acceptable in any way. Especially new parents who are already in a vulnerable position.

              1. Michaela Westen

                My opinions were formed by what I see here. No, I don’t work with patients. Yes, new mothers are encouraged (not forced or shamed) to breastfeed.

              2. Michaela Westen

                I’m not trying to shame anyone. You all are taking it there. I expressed common knowledge about breastfeeding. I’m surprised that so many people don’t want to accept this.

                1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

                  I usually try not to ask this, but I have to. Are you a parent? I’m only curious because if you’re not you truly don’t understand the haze and fear and insecurity that comes with having a new life dependent upon you for everything. That’s a lot of pressure and people who, even unknowingly, spout absolutes toward a parent are 100% never helpful. There is no absolute truth with babies. They’re all unique as are the circumstances they’re born into. There is no 100% right way to raise a child. Yes, there are “better” options for the majority, but that doesn’t make them the right options for the individual.

                  It’s sort of like parenting books. They’re all written for the average kid. Problem is, there’s no such thing as an average kid. So please think about what your words can do to someone who is in that situation. It’s brutal.

                  If you are a parent and know this feeling… then wow. It’s an even more dickish thing to do to someone.

                2. mrs__peel

                  Even if reliable, peer-reviewed studies showed significant benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding (which they don’t, when socioeconomic factors are controlled for), other people’s choices would still be *none of your business*.

                3. Zombeyonce

                  That “common knowledge” may not be true, Michaela. Disaster Voyeurism posted elsewhere in this comment section this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4077166/

                  It indicates that what was thought to be a benefit of breastfeeding over formula is more likely to be “demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status”. Basically, people able to breastfeed are people that can afford to spend the time and are able to pump when they’re at work (and all the other hardships necessary to overcome in order to breastfeed), and those people are much more likely to be able to provide other advantages for children that cause the long-term benefits. So it’s not the breastfeeding, it’s what allows these people to breastfeed that benefits their children in the long run.

                4. Michaela Westen

                  I’m going to post once more and let this go.
                  I first heard about the benefits of breastfeeding in the 90’s. Everything I’ve seen or heard since then gave me the impression it was the best option, and what I’ve seen working in the hospital reinforced it. I really thought this was common knowledge in our culture.
                  What I’ve learned from this thread is many people don’t want to believe that and there are studies that appear to confirm their beliefs.
                  So, let’s go back to common sense. Which is more likely to be the best choice for a baby? The breast milk created by nature, or an artifical drink created in a lab?
                  I was *not* saying that babies have to be exclusively breastfed. I was *not* trying to pressure or shame anyone. I was speaking generally in a discussion forum and not targeting any individual. I would *never* judge or shame a mother who tried to breast-feed and wasn’t able to. I would *never* presume to tell a stranger what should be in their baby’s bottle (unless they asked me).
                  I’m sorry there is so much pressure and judgment in our culture and wish I could change that. I’ve experienced it in other ways and it’s horrible. :(
                  I’m happy to learn formulas have been improved so that people who weren’t nursed are still healthy. Yay! :)

                5. mrs__peel

                  “So, let’s go back to common sense.”

                  “Common sense” and intuition are not appropriate bases for evidence-based medicine.

                  For centuries, it was “common sense” for doctors to perform bloodletting on their patients, and many of them died as a result. It wasn’t until the early 20th century, with advancements in scientific methods, that people accepted that there were no actual benefits to the practice (except for a few people with extremely rare blood disorders). But it was ingrained in medical professionals that it MUST be beneficial for everyone, because everyone had always said so.

            4. Gadget Hackwrench

              Let me guess, it’s a “Baby Friendly Initiative” hospital. Those info sheets are propaganda, not based in science. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics has recognized this fact. Between the high pressure “Breast is Best” tactics and the forced rooming in, babies starve while lactation consultants insisting that babies have stomachs that only can only hold a teaspoon of milk and other such lies and are smothered and dropped by sleeping mothers far more often than in hospitals that allow and even encourage supplemental formula feeding and have a well-baby nursery willing and able to take the baby when mom needs to sleep.

        36. Nell Webbish

          Unless you are living in a third world country, breast feeding does NOT make a huge difference in a child’s health. The vast majority of studies that showed positive outcomes from breastfeed frequently failed to control for other impacting variables. Studies that used both study methodology and analysis to control for variable find very small, short-lived benefits to breast feeding in one or two areas. None of these benefits have been shown to carry on past infancy.

        37. The Original Flavored K

          I am very unhappy to learn that there are people who haven’t heard, “Fed is best.” Getting nutrients and calories in that baby is the most important thing. How a parent chooses to do so doesn’t matter.

        38. Helena

          I’m surprised that you’re surprised. Surely you’ve noticed all the formula milk in the baby aisle in the supermarket?

          What on earth did you think it was for, if not for feeding to babies instead of breastmilk?

      3. Jojo

        Had my 1st in 86. Was off six weeks and could not wait to go back to work. Was not comfort sitting around house with nothing to do. Did not breast feed. Back then thing like lactation consultant where not common. Had 2nd in 2000. Hospital tried to force breastfeeding on me. Told them to shove it and go get get me a bottle of lactose free. They were pissed. Went back to work at 5 weeks with a promotion. Love my kids but do not have patience for very young ones. Prefer them when they are reaching the mobile stage. Their dad loved the helpless infant stage and giving them their bottle. He had no patients for them once they got mobile.

    2. AnonymousBabyMama

      OP: To add to this, here’s a personal anecdote about what my post-partum experience was like that may help you understand why someone might not want all those (still AWESOME) perks.

      With my first, I had every intention of breastfeeding. It was just WHAT YOU DID. Plus, my sister had had a premie baby about 6 months before I was due and had detailed the long, hard, emotionally-wrought journey of breastfeeding for me and ended up being successful. So I “knew” going in, it might be hard but if I just persisted, everything would work out. Except, OP, it didn’t. My baby wouldn’t latch. And when he did, he didn’t get enough. He lost weight. He had issues with blood sugar when he was born, so we immediately had to supplement with formula. He preferred the bottle to breastfeeding.

      Still I persisted. To increase my supply, I pumped every 2 hours for 30 minutes at a time. On top of breastfeeding, formula feeding, and all the other nuances of being a new mom. After 2 weeks, I was a complete mess. I broke down crying EVERY SINGLE DAY because it was so hard. And I knew I was FAILING. I was a failure as a mother. I couldn’t feed my baby the way I was ‘supposed’ to. My family encouraged me to keep trying. They were oh so supportive. But at 2 weeks in, I got the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I had someone tell me it was okay to stop trying. That formula worked and I wasn’t less of a mother for using it. I still felt tremendous guilt about not breastfeeding but I also felt so relieved because my nightmare was just a little less hellish.

      With my second kid, I tried breastfeeding again. And again, my supply was low and my baby lost weight. He had trouble latching. The thought of pumping literally gave me panic attacks and I refused to do it. I switched to exclusively formula feeding and never looked back.

      OP, if I had been your employee, being reminded that you had gone out of your way to make pumping at work possible and then seeing your disappointment when I chose not to would have felt horrendously judgmental. I probably would have cried. And may or may not have reported you to HR as well. (I am so happy that your employee advocated for herself and did inform HR.)

      I have a similar story regarding the time I took off of work, but I won’t go into it. The point is, you don’t know what led your employee to make the choices she has. (And she doesn’t have to have my traumatic relationship with breastfeeding to make formula-feeding a valid choice. Simply not wanting to breastfeed or just wanting to use formula is a valid reason to use formula.) Formula-feeding, returning to work before 12 weeks, and every other parenting decisions she makes is none of your business. Support your employee in the way that SHE tells YOU she needs. Even if she doesn’t need anything.

      1. Ego Chamber

        “Support your employee in the way that SHE tells YOU she needs. Even if she doesn’t need anything.”

        Except it sounds like the employee didn’t tell OP anything. OP says she made these arrangements before the employee went out on mat leave, then the employee came back early, OP reminded the employee of the options available, and then we jump straight to the employee complaining to HR.

        I know there was more to this because there’s more to every letter, but it seems like the employee is getting a lot of benefit of the doubt that the OP isn’t being given and that’s kind of shitty.

        1. Lara

          Um. OP “reminded her several times about the flexible schedule and let her know breastfeeding and pumping was still possible.”

          I.e. tried to make a new mother adhere to what she thought was appropriate new mother behaviour. The employee was being shamed for not staying home with the baby and not breastfeeding. That’s absolutely something HR should hear about.

    3. Gadget Hackwrench

      Yeah. It was a nice gesture, but OP, right here is where you went wrong: “I reminded her several times about the flexible schedule and let her know breastfeeding and pumping was still possible.” Likely your employee experienced that as her boss trying to GET HER to stay home longer and to breast feed, even though she had clearly stated that wasn’t what she wanted. Making this available to her was quite considerate. Pressuring her to use it was not. I would have reacted the same way. Like your employee I have no intent to breast feed and my husband and I have already agreed he will be a stay-at-home-dad and I will go back to work. We have talked all this out and we’re not even TTC until next year. It will not be because we weren’t supported or I HAD to go back to work. It will be because that’s our choice. It’s not an employer’s place to question, or pressure us to do otherwise.

  4. ExcelJedi

    “And pressuring her to stay home longer than she wants — and showing disappointment that she didn’t want to stay home longer — gets into really icky policing of other women’s personal decisions.”

    This. So much this. I don’t have or want children, but if I change my mind, I won’t breastfeed or stay home from work or anything like that. The LW’s actions would definitely feel like a complete violation, and probably asking for a new manager if it was possible.

    1. Hey Nonnie

      Also:

      Given the small size of the company and low turnover and my few years left before retirement, I am not likely to have a pregnant employee again.

      This is so weird. So what? What does this have to do with the current situation?

      This comes across as You Are Determined that some new mom, somewhere, it going to take all these perks you’ve arranged, whether they like it or not. Which is really overbearing and just super weird.

      1. wethepeople

        I agree, and the “few years left before retirement” makes me think this is a (much?) older woman who is alarmingly out of touch. Being overbearing and controlling in an icky-personal way with younger employees can feed the stereotype that all older workers are out of touch.

        1. fposte

          Sure, but that’s not why it’s a bad thing; people shouldn’t be punished with additional points when their mistakes contribute to stereotypes.

          I think the OP is locked into a story where this is her chance to do right what was done wrong to her–that’s why it matters to her that this is the only chance she’ll get. She needs to find a different story.

          1. Shona

            I think this is very insightful. OP, you do have the opportunity to right that wrong, by advocating for a new policy that these benefits be available to any pregnant employee. You can help other women at your company and future employees you haven’t even met.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            This is what I thought from OP’s letter, too (that she wants to right past wrongs by doing it differently for someone else).

            Anecdotal example: My grandma (who raised me) wanted to right the fact that her parents made her have the then-classic little girls’ hairstyle of chin-length hair with short bangs, and she hated it. So she made me have long hair with no bangs, and I hated it. So when I had my kids, I let them choose their own hairstyle, instead of making them have the kind of hair I’d always wanted as a child.

            The OP can right what was done to her by advocating for parents to have choices, not by prescribing the situation for them that she herself would have chosen as a parent.

            1. Eye of Sauron

              Yep… scrambled eggs.

              My dad always made runny scrambled eggs. One day when he was making them for us kids he told us how his mother had cooked the daylights out scrambled eggs when he was a kid and he hated them like that and he would never make us eat dry eggs.

              Guess which way I prefer them?

              Forcing one thing vs. the opposite is still forcing. Fostering the choice is what makes the difference.

          3. LBK

            Yeah, agreed – OP seems very determined that no woman that ever works for her will have to go through what she did. I agree with others who noted above that she could still fulfill this urge to support future mothers at the company by working to get these policies put in place permanently rather than just being one-off exceptions for her current employee. She may not get the emotional satisfaction of seeing that work pay off first-hand, but she can at least know she’s done her part.

        2. Legal Beagle

          Yeah, I don’t think this is an age thing. That seems unfair to me.

          The OP mentions that when she was a new mom, she had no support, and so she wanted to make sure her employee didn’t have to go through what OP did. Her intentions were good, but she exercised poor judgment in following them. That could happen to someone of any age. Now OP should leave this employee alone and put her good intentions into setting up systems that can benefit future parents (not just moms!) at the company.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            Yes, that last part would be an amazing way to put OP’s good intentions into practice.

          2. Drop Bear

            I think the LW’s heart was in the right place – some women who went through her experience have the view ‘I didn’t get x so why should anyone else get it’ (a common refrain when paid maternity leave was introduced where I live). But somewhere along the way she lost sight of the fact that she was doing it for her employee and not for her past self.
            LW: I hope you can see beyond this feeling of disappointment and (perhaps) betrayal and realise that you made some mistakes but that you can take the energy you used fighting for this employee, and use it to fight for others in the future. You can leave behind a wonderful legacy when you retire – you obviously have the powers of persuasion and the drive to do it.

        3. TootsNYC

          yes, this really shows that the actions were far more about the OP’s own perception of herself, and not at all about any accurate perceptions of the employee and what she needed.

          Being self-focused is a problem all of us have; some of us handle it better than others.

        4. soon 2 be former fed

          Age is irrelevant. I am an “older woman” who could not in a million years being this invasive. Ageism is not cool. Offensive workplace behavior is done by people of all ages, as regular readers of this blog know.

      2. all aboard the anon train

        Yeah. It’s a bit unsettling tbh. I’ve seen this type of attitude happen with people towards other marginalized groups and it very rarely ends well. Your heart may be in the right place and you genuinely want to help, but you generally need to ask people what type of help they need or want instead of forcing it on them without their input.

      3. designbot

        It sounds a bit like this was really about the OP, and wanting to be and be seen as being a manager that helps women, rather than actually helping the specific woman she had in front of her. This was her last chance to make this magnificent gift to someone, and that someone went and spoiled it by not being someone who found that particular gift useful.

      4. MM

        I think, based on the sentence you quoted and the part about how OP would have killed for such benefits back when she was having children, that what’s happening here is a projection of what is a well-meaning impulse. I think OP was/is excited about the concept of being able to support a woman in the position she was in years ago, when she received no support; perhaps she’s even vowed to herself in the past that “when I’m the boss, I’ll make sure the people who work under me don’t have to go through what I went through.” I think she maybe has attached a fair amount of personal and career fulfillment to the idea of having gotten herself to a position where she can have that kind of direct influence on the experience of women in the workplace. So here comes her opportunity to make good on that, FINALLY, and so a) all the ideas she’s had about this kind of bubbled over without stopping to think about whether they’d apply to THIS individual, and b) when the individual didn’t want it that broke the whole model in her brain. That’s why she’s so upset.

        I don’t disagree that it’s overbearing and ultimately unhelpful to the actual working mom here, but I think it came out of what I see as a commendable desire to do something for others that nobody did for OP. It’s just that that desire maybe ended up manifesting more in the vein of playing out a long-held dream/fantasy than as just accommodating the individual in front of her.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Having seen dozens of my friends lose their jobs on a moment’s notice over the years, I get scared and paranoid about my job security easily. If my boss started dropping hints that I shouldn’t be at work, I might lose sleep at night.

      For the record, I stayed at home with my kids until they were 4 years old and 18 months old (I had two part-time temp jobs during that time, for a few months each, but for a very short period, and none after baby#2 was born.) You know why? Because I lost my job after the oldest was born, and could not find another, as our home country where we then lived was not very open to hiring women, especially the ones with young children. My career took a huge hit because of that. I would not dream of wanting a younger employee, family member, etc to follow in my footsteps. Just because that was something I did back in my day, does not mean everyone should. Whatever happened to us when our children were born way back when, does not apply now, and never applied to everyone even then.

    3. Bleeborp

      I’ve never previously thought I’d have kids but now possibly reconsidering it and one thing that really opened me up to the idea was feeling free not to breastfeed. Maybe I’d love it and do it until they’re 13 or maybe I won’t even try, it’s up to me! But I found that the thought of being frequently tethered to a child or a pump with little my husband could do to help very stressful so the thought that hey, formula exists and I can do whatever works for us really made me feel less anxious. I was formula fed and my husband was breastfed and we’re both equally smart and cool in some ways and dumb and fucked up in others!

  5. Lily in NYC

    My sister is not remotely maternal and hated everything about having an infant – her husband was the primary caregiver for the first two years of my niece’s life (my sister just couldn’t deal well with babies). It’s what worked for them. It was nice of OP to try to help but I do think it would have been better to check to make sure her help was wanted.

    1. London Bookworm

      Another factor is that it can be hard to know what will be wanted. Babies (any living thing, really) are a giant unknown variable, as is a mother’s post-pregnancy body and mind. Sometimes people get hit hard with labor complications or post-partum depression. Alternatively, some people are blessed with calm, unfussy infants. Some women plan to breastfeed and are unable – some women don’t plan to breastfeed but ultimately change their minds.

      That’s why options and flexibility can be so important.

      1. Em

        I agree with everyone else that it was awesome of you to arrange these benefits but that you have to respect your employees decision whether to use them or not. It sounds to me like she would have had a fairly good idea about whether she wanted any of these perks if you had spoken to her ahead of time BUT I also don’t think you should feel like it was a waste, because as many people have pointed out, things might have turned out differently. It could have happened that she had planned not to need any perks and then after the birth, changed her mind. So I think it was a good thing that she had options if she needed them.

      2. Reba

        Yes, exactly! Even if the new mom had been enthusiastic about the extra time before the birth, she could have changed her mind afterwards based on the actual experience, her needs, and her kid!

        That’s what flexibility is about.

      3. Bonky

        I was thinking exactly this. I believed myself to be very unmaternal, and only planned (in a country where I can take a year of maternity leave) to be off for two months at most.

        My daughter turns one later this month. I’m still on leave and I will be sad to go back. The fact that my company was happy to be flexible when I realised I had not made the right decision for us has been wonderful for our family, and it’ll weigh very heavily with me in the future.

    2. The Original K.

      I love kids but I don’t like babies. I’m like ” … Now what?” when someone hands me one (and please do not just hand me a baby without asking). Once they’re crawling and smiling, more interactive, I’m OK with them – and I love toddlers, and like various things about the other ages, even the terrible tweens/teens. But infants are a no-go for me. People are pretty judgmental about this.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast

        That’s a really interesting point, because things change and this employee may want or need the flexibility in the future when their child is mobile and in school/daycare/afterschool/whatever. Just because she does not need it right now doesn’t mean she wouldn’t need a more flexible arrangement in the future if OP’s company can afford it. Please don’t let your HR and upper management hold it against her in the future that she didn’t use the flexible arrangements right after birth and bar her form ever getting them if she decides she does want to use them in the future. Obviously the medical leave may not still be an option but other arrangements shouldn’t go away forever just to spite her.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          This is a good point. Pushing for flexibility for employees who may need it–with a baby, an older child, a sick parent, their own illness–is really good. These are good policies to have in place.

          But some of them won’t be needed by individual employees, and that’s okay. (Reaction to a death, for instance–some people need more time off, whether for grief or logistics; some want to get right back to the routine and distraction of work over sitting at home thinking in great detail about everything.)

          1. Juli G.

            Agree. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s easy for husband to get stuff done now when the baby does lots of sleeping and no crawling but things could change in how they balance in the future.

        2. Ophelia

          Strongly seconding this! And honestly, it would be great if OP could advocate for family leave for all employees in the company – mothers and fathers, sure, but also people caring for aging parents, or with other family members who need care and support due to illness, injury, etc. Having a comprehensive policy on this will benefit ALL employees, not just new parents.

        3. whingedrinking

          I’m a tutor, and it’s funny working in a centre with other tutors to see the range. Personally, I don’t understand the tutors who say, “Oh, it’s too bad you work with so many teenagers – the kindergarteners are so cute, aren’t they?” Meanwhile, I love my teenage students and would be delighted to work only with them. I will happily trade any amount of cute for being able to have a reasonable conversation and not need to tell anyone to blow their nose.

      2. Aleta

        Yeah, I super don’t like babies. Once I can talk to them I’m good (though I still don’t want any kids), but babies? What? I don’t know what to do with one anymore than I know what to do with a doll, but at least with a doll I don’t have to worry about accidentally doing something wrong with no reliable way for them to tell me!

        1. Drop Bear

          I’ve had kids and I still don’ t like babies that much, though I don’t worry I’ll break them anymore. :)

      3. Bigglesworth

        I actually had a conversation last week with a classmate. She’s all about babies – snuggling, smooching, holding, feeding, etc. I, on the other hand, feel fairly meh. The first baby I held and thought, “Aww. You’re cute.” was my adopted niece when she was born. She was also sleeping at the time. Other than that, I don’t understand the appeal. This completely blew my classmate away. She basically thought that since I’m married, my husband wants kids, and i seem fairly down to earth, surely I would want children and that I would find babies appealing. She was…surprised to say the least.

        That said, my husband and I have already gotten some judgment because he wants to stay home with munchkins when they’re small. I know about the motherhood penalty and just generally don’t like staying home all the time, so staying at home longer than i need to doesn’t sound appealing.

        1. Murphy

          I have an almost one year old and I’m still not a baby person.

          (I love my child. Don’t @ me judgey people.)

          1. Jesca

            Haha. Before I had my son, I held a baby exactly one time in my life. I really was not “into it”. But now, I love babies. I mean, I LOVE them. With that said, there are other stages that I have found I do like less. I think it all depends on your personality.

            I for one, Stayed home with my first child for the most part. I worked part time for a year. I realized that the whole stay-at-home mom thing was not for me. I do need some level of an outlet to be analytical and problem solve that just wasn’t present in my life enough as much as a stay at home mom. I am sure if my part time job was more intellectually stimulating, then I would have been better. It is all actually what spawned me to go back school. So I never judge people what they like and don’t like. I don’t love my kids less because I like to work. I love my kids enough to find them a sitter who loves them almost as much as I do and treats them like family. So we all win. They don’t have to deal with me trying to find ways to stimulate my mind throughout the day and they land a mommy who can come home and be engaged 100%. No one person is the same! And there is no wrong in either.

            1. Jules the 3rd

              Heh, I was and am totally a baby person – totally ga ga.

              However, after 4 weeks of being at home, I was pretty bored. I started back part time, then back to full time at 6 weeks. So, being a baby person doesn’t mean you can’t still get bored eventually.

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat

          You’re not alone. The first year was… not my favorite. Of course I loved my daughter, but not the colic or constant need to nurse or the lack of ability for me to DO anything. I went back to work at 6 weeks and it saved my sanity. My husband, meanwhile, was a a very good stay-at- home parent.
          There were a surprising number of people who didn’t get that dynamic, and who seemed to think that their opinion on it mattered to me.
          This is a point that I think sometimes gets lost in trying to be supportive of new mothers– that you can’t really be supportive of new mothers when you’re not supportive of new PARENTS. Letting both partners have flexible schedules if they want them and new parent leave rather than just maternity leave are things that make it much easier for each mother to choose the path that works for her family.
          That’s not necessarily directed at OP, but OP if you do choose to see what broader work policy changes you can implement, please consider that. New fathers can benefit from the policies just as much as new mothers. (Although I suppose they’re much less likely to need a pumping room.)

          1. myswtghst

            “This is a point that I think sometimes gets lost in trying to be supportive of new mothers– that you can’t really be supportive of new mothers when you’re not supportive of new PARENTS.”

            This is such an important point! One way to be supportive of working mothers is to make sure that they don’t have to pick up all the slack because the father can’t. Years ago, I had a coworker who ended up quitting after using up every last bit of leave, flexibility, and goodwill she had available to her, all because her husband had zero flexibility at his job, so she always had to be the one to leave early or stay home when their child was too sick for daycare.

          2. Detached Elemental

            Right on! I went back to work full time when my child was seven months old, and my husband took over as the primary caregiver.

            He does an amazing job, and has such a strong bond with our little one.

        3. Little Bean

          I’m with you. I want and plan to have a kid, but I do not care for most babies. I love the babies I’m related to and I fully expect to love my own child, but I do not want to play with other people’s babies just for fun. When coworkers bring in their new baby to the office and everyone gathers around to coo for an hour, I stop by to say “how cute, then pretend I’m really busy and on a deadline.

          However, the way that some people feel about babies, I feel about dogs. I will stop whatever I am doing anywhere and play with any dog for as long as they will let me.

          1. Quoth the Raven

            I’m the same with dogs and babies!

            I don’t want kids myself, and I don’t particularly like babies, toddlers, or young children (though I have no problem with them being around at all, and them being them, and will happily interact if I have to). But after they turn 6-7? I tend to have a lot of fun spending time with them.

        4. SpaceySteph

          I’m in the same boat. My daughter turns 1 this week and she’s actually pretty fun now but I didn’t really enjoy my maternity leave. I felt isolated, bored, and my daughter only ever napped on me so I was basically trapped under a baby for most of the day. Going back to work was important for my mental health.

          The only 2 things about going back to work at 12 weeks that really bothered me were a) I had to give up MY nap but my child was still waking up to nurse a couple times a night and b) my pre-pregnancy pants didn’t fit so I had nothing to wear.

        5. Kj

          I’m pregnant now and I am not an infant person. I love kids and work with them, but infants are not my favorite. I like my friends’ kids once they hit the stage where they can interact. Before then, not so much. I’m sure I’ll be fine with my baby, but I am more looking forward to the later stages, as is my husband.

          Oh, and I plan to return to work after about 6 weeks off by choice (we could afford for me to stay home full-time)… the opinions I get on that are frustrating. But I work 1/2 days and I like my job- we can afford good childcare as well. But you’d think I’d confessed to planning to abandon my child when I tell folks I’m going back to work.

          And don’t get me started on the fact we only plan to have 1 kid. Ugh. Everyone has opinions about my reproductive choices.

          1. HRKylie

            I feel you so much on this. My mom was a single parent and had to work at crap jobs she hated so she’s super into me staying home and then having more kids, no matter than I’m already 35 and just not wanting to spend my 40s with a toddlers, and I actually really like my job with excellent insurance. Also, while daycare is expensive, it does not equal my entire salary. At least she’s super on board for formula feeding which is one less judgment of my reproductive choices.

            1. Kj

              My mom was a stay at home mom, so she thinks it is the right thing to do, although she admits I have a perfect job for continuing to work with a kid. And honestly- that is part of why I choose my profession. I can work part time, make a full time salary, and have kids. I like that about my job. I like working. I would be sad not to use my super-expensive degree.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Are you me? I loved raising kids at various ages, including the teens, but babies just drove me up the wall. No one has ever said anything about it to me though. I never received any judgment. Guess I’ve been very fortunate.

        My ex-husband went through a phase, when we were married, of telling people at parties “do not hand her a baby, or she might want to have one of her own again” and I always just stared and had no idea how to respond to that. I mean he was there when I was dying of boredom and sleep deprivation with each baby! No I would not want another one if I hold someone else’s for five minutes! Where on earth did that noti0n come from?

        1. Trillion

          Maybe he knows you’re not a baby person and this was his way of keeping you from having to hold babies?

        2. soon 2 be former fed

          Toilet training drove me up a wall. The rest was just fine. I don’t squee over babies though, I don’t think they need people all up in their face. I like most of them well enough, but mine was easy, not colicky or a crier, so I was kind of spoiled and don’t care for fuss baby or clingy toddlers.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Honestly, I think he’d heard one of his guy friends say this about his wife, and decided it was a nice thing to say to people. He was nothing is not a nice guy. I know for sure he didn’t want more kids. We barely survived two, lol.

      5. Susana

        Oh, I know! And when you’re an unmarried, childless female, you are not spared. People – even relative strangers at gatherings at mutual friends’ homes – tend to ask me, with a somewhat pitying/magnanimous face, if I want to “hold the baby.” Like I’ve been living in a cave and they are offering me a moment of life-giving sunshine. And what I want to say is: “No. I don’t. As you can see, I am holding something – a drink.” But people are so appalled if you’re a female and don’t either have children or desperately want to have them. I do like children, but I’m with the OP’s employee on this one – I would not want to spend six months home with an infant. I need adult contact and interaction.

        1. CorpRecruiter

          Lol, “Life-giving sunshine.” Love that! Being a childless female gets strange attention from sometimes random places. My dad told me that a friend of his (whom I’ve never met) asked him if he thought it was weird that I didn’t have kids and wasn’t he worried about me? An acquaintance of mine used to refer to me as “The Baby Hater,” because I chose not to have kids. A friend of mine was shocked and disappointed when she found out I got my tubes tied; I think she thought I’d change my mind someday. Same as breastfeeding there are myriad reasons a woman does or doesn’t have kids. It’s bizarre how some ppl can take such a vocal interest in others’ deeply personal choices.

    3. Office Drone

      I’m probably your sister from another mother. I HATED everything about the infant years. I took my six weeks of maternity leave and was excited to go back to work at the end of those six weeks, because then I could talk to grown ups. again.

      1. JessaB

        Sib from another crib here, I totally do not do well with babies, and the worse my arthritis gets the more dangerous I am. Do not give me a baby to hold, my grip is NOT sure. Gimme a roomful of littles running round to play with? Sure I used to teach kindergarten, I can keep a bunch of em entertained. But non mobile babies? Nope, nope, nope. And people get so bent out of shape if you don’t want to hold their infants. I at least can claim “do you want me to accidentally drop little Eggsy here, Michelle? I got no grip anymore.”

          1. JessaB

            someone in one of the queer friendly groups came up with it because brother from another mother and sister from another mister don’t work for non binary people. I wish I could remember who to credit with it, but I adore it.

      2. Working Mama

        I love the hell out of my kid, and am currently pregnant with her younger sibling, but oh my god I did not like anything about the first three months the first time around and I expect not to the second time around, either. It’s just that they’re remarkably temporary and quick in the grand scheme of things, and you can get over and past them quickly. I’d have laser-eyes for any boss who insisted I needed to enjoy it more and do it more. None of boss’s business.

        1. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

          FWIW, I found the postpartum experience with Kid 2 way better than with Kid 1. Part of it, I think, was watching Kid 1 adore their sibling. But it was a whole different kettle of fish, and I hope for your sake you will have the same experience!

          1. Working Mama

            This pregnancy is definitely way more fun than the first, because I get to experience it through my bigger kid’s awed eyes, too. So I hope you’re right. :)

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            I had a much easier time with kid 2 because I finally felt like I knew what to do with a baby. With my first, I spent months being completely terrified that I would do something wrong or not know how to respond to her needs; I didn’t yet trust that the self I had only ever known to be self-indulgent and capricious could be consistently responsible for another life. I loved my baby, but I was miserable with self-doubt and just the general un-testedness of myself as a mother. The second one was easy once I knew that I’d had the mettle to take care of the first one.

      3. Gadget Hackwrench

        I love infants. I will gladly hold the baby. Yes please. So cute. SUNSHINE!!!!! I haven’t got one of my own yet so I’ll gladly bask in yours.

        And you know what? I’m STILL going back to work as soon as I’m able to. I love working. I love my job. I’ll love my kid too, but I don’t need to be tethered to them 24/7. A person can be ga-ga over babies and STILL want to get back to their job. I think that “contradiction” would break OP’s brain.

    4. AnotherAlison

      I’m similar with not being super-maternal, although I didn’t hate having an infant. My older kid/adult kid are great to have, though. I had to go back to work at 7 weeks, could have had 12 but it would have been unpaid, but I can’t quite wrap my head around 20 weeks. If I could get 20 weeks paid leave and save $200/wk (14 yrs ago) daycare, I probably would have done that out of necessity, but I’d have worried about losing ground and appearances with that much time off that no one else in the entire company would ever have.

      1. TootsNYC

        I’d have worried about losing ground and appearances with that much time off that no one else in the entire company would ever have.

        This is why the OP owes the new mom an apology.

        The OP may have “spent” her own “capital,” but she spent some of the employee’s as well. And she didn’t even ask her.

        No wonder the top brass and HR are annoyed that the OP didn’t even ask the employee.

        1. Reba

          Great insight, Toots and AnotherAlison.

          Whether or not I wanted to take the offered leave etc, I’d feel uncomfortable with my leave being made into a big production–without any input from me!–where I might feel singled out, wondering what everyone from the CEO to my cube neighbor was thinking about my choices!

          1. myswtghst

            Absolutely agreed. I’m looking forward to my 12 weeks of leave with my first, but with ~3 months til I go on leave, I’m already working through what I’ll miss while I’m gone, what I’ll be behind on, and how I’ll catch up when I get back. (And I’m pretty sure my husband is already making plans to hide my work phone & laptop so I can’t “just check my email real quick”.) I can only imagine how I’d feel if that leave wasn’t standard and it seemed like my boss was making a big show out of it.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian

          Good point; I’m always concerned about guarding my capital and spending it wisely on the things that make sense according to my own personal calculus. If someone else was spending my capital and potentially over-drafting my account, I’d be fairly irritated.

    5. HS Teacher

      My sister is the same way. She stayed home for a few days after giving birth and then went right back to work.

      She wouldn’t have appreciated the LW’s meddling. She didn’t breastfeed and would tell you off if you suggested she should.

    6. Nan

      Yes, that’s me. I would have paid to go back to work by day 2. My doc wouldn’t release me back until 6 weeks. My husband took a week off with me,. When he went back to work, I cried, and I am not a crier. I wanted to go to work, too!!! I also formula fed because breastfeeding weirds me out. It’s not for everyone. But if it floats your boat, go right ahead.

      My son is 17 now, and I love him, he’s a good kid. But I would never, ever, ever, ever have another baby. It was the most miserable year of my life. Never again. Never.

      1. Murphy

        +1

        I said above that I would have loved those accommodations. And that’s true…before I had the baby I would have definitely wanted more time off. But in the moment? I was so relieved to go back to work and finally get a break. My husband took off 2 weeks, and the rest of that time was me alone with a screaming infant all day.

      2. Lily in NYC

        I’m glad we are starting to reach a point where women can admit this and not get judged.

        1. smoke tree

          Yeah, it’s almost like women are people and might have different opinions! Fancy that.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        My oldest was a fairly calm baby (still boring as all babies are to me, but heck) so we had a second 2.5 years later. It’s a good thing I had no idea how hard it would be, or else we’d have stopped at one. We did not know it at the time, but my oldest had Aspergers, and really just wanted to be left alone. His brother was very social and wanted to play with his brother, and (also unbeknownst to us) had ADHD and could not sit still for a minute. Hell ensued. The kids did not get along until we moved into a house where the oldest had his own room with a door. They are best friends now though! But OMG those were the worst 1-2 years of my life.

        I was in heaven when I went back to work. I was allowed (expected, even) to sit in a chair for hours! I could use the bathroom uninterrupted for more than 30 seconds at a time! And I got paid for it? Sign me up!

        We still floated the idea of a third kid (because we thought the first two would enjoy having another sibling), but after the oldest literally asked me not to have another baby, and added that if I still would, that he’d protect himself and his brother from it… That’s when I knew we were done.

    7. Karyn

      THIS. My mother could not WAIT to go back to work after she had me and my siblings – and the only reason she had to wait as long as she did is because she was recovering from C-sections both times. She worked right up until she couldn’t work anymore, and then went back the second she was able. She loved us, but boy, did she not love being at home with a baby. She also didn’t breastfeed, and she’s told me how much grief she got from that (she worked in a hospital). I think OP really did have her heart in the right place at first, but maybe she could use that to advocate for a general maternity/paternity policy rather than just for one employee at a time.

    8. LouiseM

      I get that you’re talking about your sister and not the OP’s employee, but this still makes me a little uncomfortable. Just because the employee wanted to go back to work and not spend literally all day with her baby doesn’t mean she’s not “maternal.”

      1. Lily in NYC

        Where the hell did I write anything about the woman OP refers to? NOWHERE. I was relating a personal anecdote and not passing judgment on anyone. My sister refers to herself as not being maternal, so I don’t know what your problem is. Also, may I ask why you think the rule about nitpicking word choices doesn’t apply to you?

        1. LouiseM

          What my problem is? This is a really inappropriate level of aggression for a response to a perfectly polite comment. Maybe this subject is striking a nerve and you should cool down a bit.

          And if you reread my comment, you’ll see that I specifically said I knew you were talking about your sister. But since you were talking about her in the context of this question I interpreted that you thought it was the same situation here (which is why it made me uncomfortable). I wasn’t nitpicking your word choice–the content of your comment gave me pause, not the way you said it.

          1. Lily in NYC

            Your comment was uncalled for and accusatory and now you are backtracking that you weren’t nitpicking. You actually put the word you disagreed with in quotes. And telling people to calm down after you are rude is passive-aggressive bullshit.

      2. Gadget Hackwrench

        +1… see my above reply to someone else about being ga-ga for babies and still wanting to work.

  6. London Bookworm

    I agree with Alison here. These sort of decisions are not ones she should have to justify to her employer.

    It might help your disappointment if you reframe your thinking a little. Instead of thinking “I went to bat for Carla and she didn’t appreciate it,” maybe frame it as “I went to bat for working mothers, myself included.” Because women absolutely do deserve the options for how to handle this (you deserved those options too, and it’s a shame you didn’t get them).

    Perhaps figuring these things out may make it easier in the future for other women at the company, should they become pregnant. And it’s important that companies have ongoing conversations about these topics.

    It also sounds like you owe your employee an apology. Good luck!

    1. BadWolf

      Yes, it sounds like the OP has paved the way (hopefully) for future parents who may want/need to use more of these benefits. Focus on that and not on what the employee didn’t want.

      Hopefully the company just said, “Yay, we have our employee back and didn’t need to pay out that time” instead of being grumpy about having prepared to have more time off. I’m sure the mother’s room expense might ruffle some feathers, but that’s handy to have in the future (and perhaps could double as a resting room or something if it won’t be needed for awhile).

    2. Academic Addie

      This is exactly what I came here to say. I enjoy my job, and was happy to get back to it with my first. With my second, I will take 12 weeks, because my husband is also returning to work about this time (he stayed home with our first), and we need a little more lead to figure it out. These decisions are personal, and, OP, you’ve now laid foundation to get benefits for your future employees. That’s a victory, regardless of if this one individual wanted those accommodations.

    3. Jules the 3rd

      If nothing else, there’s now a room that’s easily convertable to a pump room for any future mothers.

  7. The Original K.

    You never know what’s going to happen when people have babies. Sometimes parents swear up and down that they’re going to come back to work and then decide to quit altogether. Sometimes it’s the opposite – I know a few women who shortened their maternity leaves for various reasons. I also know women who didn’t or couldn’t breastfeed, for various reasons – and literally all of them, to a one, reported feeling judged about it by someone(s) in their lives, so you really really really do not want to go there. None of these reasons are your business, and you really don’t get to impose your preferences on your employee’s choices like this. I don’t blame her for going to HR.

    Definitely apologize to her – you owe her that. You don’t have to understand why she didn’t want the perks you arranged, but you do have to accept it and keep your judgment about it out of the workplace.

    1. Van Wilder

      So true. I thought I’d be checking in on work periodically but when the baby came, I was totally overwhelmed and couldn’t even respond to personal texts. I didn’t go back to work one second before I had to. On the other hand, I had a friend that could afford to stay home and assumed she’d quit after maternity leave but had such bad post-partum anxiety that she really needed to go back to work for her mental health. Everyone’s different and you don’t know how it’s going to be until you’re there.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL

        It really does vary, and it sucks that LW went off her own experience, only to find that the employee couldn’t/didn’t want to use any of those perks. Even among a particular category of worker – in this case, pregnant employees who return to work – experience and personal needs can vary so much.

        I hope this doesn’t prejudice the company against being willing to offer flexibility to the next pregnant person who comes along, because even though this woman didn’t need those perks, there’s no doubt in my mind that the next maternity leave candidate is likely to have their own unique experience as well.

  8. Hey Karma, Over here.

    “I don’t understand why she wouldn’t want the perks I worked so hard to get. I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it.”
    Here’s the only answer you are going to get for the first part: because she doesn’t want them. And that is all you will know. Anything more than that is not your business. That she had to tell you about her husband’s work situation and his child care duties is too much.
    As for getting over it, you have no choice. Honestly, her choice is Not.About.You.
    You need to move on.
    Put it in the box with “my friend didn’t want my car,” situation where you had a great car a only couple years old, but your cousin would rather get a loan and buy a new one. You’d still have to accept that your friend made the best choice for herself and you couldn’t treat her differently because of it.

    1. Seriously?

      This exactly. You advocated to give your employee the ability to choose how to best care for her new child and keep her job because you did not have that choice. By pushing her so hard to make a different decision, you are effectively trying to take those choices away. Don’t put your employee in the lose-lose situation you found yourself in. Support her by supporting her decisions.

  9. Friday

    Oh OP, FWIW I personally would have LOVED what you arranged, as would many moms. But there are also a lot of moms that don’t feel the way we do, as obviously there are a million different ways to parent and to structure one’s life. And the breastfeeding thing is a super sensitive subject, with many women on both sides of the feeding fence being judged mercilessly for rather dumb societal reasons.

    Your heart was in the right place but next time yes, make sure you are 100% tailoring the leave accommodations to what your particular employee tells you she wants and needs.

    1. Murphy

      Yes, this is exactly what I was going to say. I would have loved this, but I know that I’m not everyone.

      Especially regarding breastfeeding, there are many reasons why women can’t, or simply choose not to do it.

      It’s so so important when trying to help someone that you are helping them in the way that they want to be helped.

    2. Van Wilder

      Same. I would have loved this arrangement.

      The platinum rule: treat others the way *they* want to be treated.

      1. Lily Rowan

        I was just thinking that this is where the Golden Rule goes wrong! Not everyone wants to be treated as you would.

        1. Observer

          Well, I don’t think that’s actually true. EVERYONE wants basic respect, to have people NOT judge them and preferably, to get support for their choices.

          It’s like the discussion about “everyone is entitled to their opinion” that comes up a lot of times – It often looks like what people mean is “everyone is entitled to MY opinion.” And, really if you want someone to respect your opinion when they don’t agree with it, you need to respect their opinion when you don’t agree with it.

          OP, understand that different people need different things. But EVERYONE needs respect, and you are denying this to your new mom employee.

          1. Safetykats

            I think that everyone also deserves privacy. Even if OP’s new mom employee was using the Mother’s Room she set up, that would still be to a large extent none of OP’s business.

            To OP – please remember that in the future in case all these awesome perks are used by another employee. You should no more be keeping track of how often and for how long your employee is pumping than you should be keeping track of how often a diabetic employee tests their blood glucose. I don’t know what it is about pregnancy and lactation that makes everyone think it’s their business, but it’s not.

            FYI – in our department of about 80 people we currently have three nursing mothers. My boss actually asked me (2 of them are in my group) how long they were planning on pumping. I had to tell him that I wasn’t going to ask, and neither was he – although if it seemed to continue past when the kids entered kindergarten we could rethink that strategy.

        2. JB (not in Houston)

          Eh, I think most people would want their own choices respected, so saying to do to others what you would want them to do for you covers that. It’s just that some people think they should do to others literally exactly the same actions they would want done for them, but it’s not really that literal of a rule! I like reframing it, though, so people get that.

      2. Aveline

        The platinum rule is always superior because it involves treating the other person as a person who has their own opinions and their own right to consent to anything you do or to reject it.

    3. einahpets

      Yes, I can also say I would loved all that the OP arranged… but I also would have been weirded out by any of my bosses tracking anything in the way of my pumping / feeding schedule for my babies once I was back to work. If a woman is pumping/breastfeeding an infant it is not always easy, there is a ton of pressure and assumptions society makes about it, and anyone else making a comment about it? Oh no.

      Also, I went back to work after 3 months with my first and 4 months with my second, and I’ve never regretted going back to work. My husband and I share parenting responsibilities pretty equally now, but early on? Oh man, there was so much with the feeding that only I could do, after 9 months of my body being changed dramatically to accommodate the babies. I’m an introvert who isn’t much into physical attention and babies/toddlers are pretty much needing physical attention all the time. Sitting at my desk working on something technical for a few hours? Heaven.

    4. LiveAndLetDie

      This exactly. I would have adored that whole setup and appreciated it wholeheartedly. But I think the answer here is to fight to make this the standard accommodation option and not to hang all feelings about it on this one individual woman. Her choices are hers alone, and OP needs to find a way to stop taking this personally.

  10. Detective Amy Santiago

    Did you ever ask your employee what she wanted/needed in terms of time off/flexible scheduling/etc?

    I can understand being miffed if you went out of your way to push for all of this because the employee asked for it, but if you just decided to do it on your own, well…

    1. Tardigrade

      It doesn’t sound like OP discussed any of this with the employee first. And even if she had, well, circumstances and minds do change.

      OP, I understand being miffed about the work put into all this, and it’s OK to feel it, but it’s not OK to direct that toward your employee in any way. Definitely stop mentioning any of this to her.

    2. Guacamole Bob

      I’m the parent of two young kids, and my work schedule has gotten way more rigid post-kids. Maybe not in the early infant months that were full of doctor’s appointments and when the kids started daycare and got sick all the time, but after the initial hurdles having kids often means sticking closely to a routine. We have a carefully arranged routine that works for us in terms of the timing of drop off, pick up, meals, etc. If the other parents is home with the children then working from home is miserable, so that’s not really any benefit to me.

      I need reasonable sick and vacation time allowances and for my boss and coworkers not to give me a hard time when I need to leave at the same time every day. I don’t really want or need extra “perks” of flexible scheduling as a parent beyond what non-parents in my office need. Maybe OP’s employee is the same way.

    3. Van Wilder

      Yeah I can understand just assuming on the paid leave (and she can always come back earlier) but the flexible schedule is a pretty big leap. Some people are justifiably concerned about being mommy-tracked at work.

    4. Triplestep

      That’s what jumps out at me. It was *a lot* to go through without ever once checking in with the mom-to-be. I thought the letter was going to be about a staff member professing to want these things and then not using them, which would indeed be problematic. But to never have asked? This is like the opposite of “I wouldn’t give my employee time off to attend her own graduation” and raises similar flags for me.

    5. LKW

      It sounded like these were presented as options to the employee – as the LW writes that she knew about all of this before she left on maternity leave.

      Presented as options means the employee had the opportunity to use the perks she felt she needed and nothing more. However, presented as expectations means the employee was pressured to do things she didn’t need or want. So LW – while the arrangements and the work you did was very kind, you made assumptions that were simply not correct. Once you realized your assumptions were incorrect, it was time to stop.

      1. Alton

        Also, it’s possible that the employee didn’t explicitly turn down the options before going on leave because she thought they were just options and didn’t want to completely close the door on using them if she needed to (if, for example, there were medical complications with the birth). Having options in place in case someone needs them is a good thing, but it sounds like the OP crossed the line into arranging the accommodations before they were actually requested and assuming that they would be used. It might also have gone over better with HR if all of this had been framed more as an option for the employee.

    6. Dragoning

      The letter does seem to indicate OP never asked the employee. Which makes this bizarrely over-invested in an employees life and family in a way I’d be uncomfortable if my mother was in mine.

      OP clearly projected their feelings onto this situation hard.

      1. Someone else

        It’s a bit confusing because it seems like the OP never asked the OP, given the OP responded by saying she’d never planned to xyz. But OP also says the employee knew about what she (OP) was doing before she (emplyee) left. But I’m liking the theory that the employee maybe thought these things were just options, and didn’t realize OP was sticking her neck out and jumping through hoops to get these things. If that had been clearer from the start the employee could’ve said “I’m unlikely to use xyz so no need to specially arrange for it.” But if OP, when discussing the things before the employee left made it seem to much like the stuff was already a normal thing, it may not have seemed necessary to say “don’t bother” in advance.

        1. Someone else

          Typo: was supposed to say it seems like the OP never asked the employee in the first sentence.

    7. Cornflower Blue

      The letter says:

      “My boss and HR are upset that I advocated for her without talking to her first. ”

      Which definitely makes it sound like the OP didn’t actually talk to the employee, just presented her with it like a surprise chocolate cake.

      (Personally, I love chocolate cake! It would be a great surprise! But other people are allergic to chocolate, or gluten-intolerant, or on a diet, or have eating disorders, etc etc. Which is why as much as I admire the OP for doing all that, I really do think asking first what was needed might’ve been a better option.)

  11. Spreadsheets and Books

    The breastfeeding thing really got to me. All new moms – literally all of them – know that breastfeeding is an option. That has been drilled into their heads repeatedly since getting pregnant, and many are shamed about not pursuing that route. She’s heard it all already, and she doesn’t need that from her boss. Pushing a new mom who chose not to breastfeed by letting her know that breastfeeding is still an option is really condescending to me and I’m not at all surprised she went to HR.

    People are different. As a manager, it’s really on you to know that. It was very kind of you to advocate for your employee, but it’s not what she needs. Let her do what’s best for her, so long as her choices aren’t interfering with her abilities at work (which it sounds like they aren’t).

    1. Spritely

      Yep, me too. I have zero desire to be a parent, but if it had happened, I would not have breastfed and would be so angry at a manager trying to convince me to do it.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books

        I completely agree. I don’t see myself as someone destined to be a parent but my husband and I have discussed it and we may consider it at some point in time. If we do, I see myself as the kind of person uninterested in breastfeeding and eager to return to work as soon as possible. I like the idea of having a child 8 and up or so, but babies and toddlers… nope. Not me. There’s no one way or right way to keep a child happy, healthy, and loved, and I see no reason to shame women for how they choose to approach that. A healthy mom means a lot more than forced stay-at-home parenthood.

      2. essEss

        If I had a manager that demanded that I follow their orders for what to do with my breasts in private, you bet I’d be running to HR.

      3. JOA

        That “zero desire to be a parent” thing is what sticks with me. How would OP handle women who don’t want children, period? I know it’s a slippery slope, but it doesn’t seem like an illogical extrapolation down this path of “I did all this for you!”

    2. Tin Cormorant

      As a mom who tried to breastfeed for exactly three days before giving up in tears, I can tell you it is HARD and I felt like human garbage for weeks because all of society was telling me that if I didn’t do this my child would end up being a failure at life and it would be all my fault.

      Some people just cannot do it and continuing to remind them about it is painful. I would definitely have gone to HR about this if it had been me.

      1. straws

        This. I came to the comments to say this. I’m part of a breastfeeding support group, and there are situations that just do not end in a successful nursing relationship between mom & baby, even when it’s wholeheartedly desired. The only predictable thing about babies, childbirth, etc., is that they’re unpredictable. You can make all the plans you want, but you never know what you’re actually going to get, and the best thing you can do to support a new mom is to understand that and let her know that her plans (changed or unchanged) are ok.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

        THIS. OP could be triggering extremely painful memories. Mentioning it once it’s fine, twice or more isn’t.

        1. LiveAndLetDie

          Honestly as a boss, even once is too much. It’s not a professional matter, it’s not the OP’s business.

      3. MsChanandlerBong

        Your child will be fine. Any time someone tries to shame a mom for not breastfeeding, I remind them that I was breastfed and still have lupus, terrible allergies, constant infections, and a bajllion other health problems. Breastfeeding didn’t magically turn me into a healthy baby/person.

      4. I will kill people with this cricket bat

        Yes! I tried so, so hard to breastfeed the tiny tyrant, but I couldn’t. Believe me, I lost my shit on people who told me I was doing something wrong (and then cried in private because what if I was doing something wrong for my baby). It’s never ok to force our own perspectives and preferences on other people. So long as the baby is being fed all is good. Full stop.

    3. hbc

      Especially when it was offered. Eight weeks after the birth and never having breast fed, you might as well hook a pump up to the dad, because that option is over without medical intervention. It would come across as pushy and ignorant.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      You also have no way of knowing if she tried to breastfeed and couldn’t or if she’s on some kind of medication that makes breastfeeding contraindicated. A lot of women will go off of necessary meds for the duration of a pregnancy, but can’t stay off of them to breastfeed. Or you could be like my cousin, who breastfed her daughter and despite her best efforts, daughter lost a ton of weight and ended up in the hospital. They needed to switch to bottle feeding so they could better track how much she was eating.

    5. Gen

      I was essentially forced to breastfeed (I was threatened with the withholding of vital medical help if I stopped) and it resulted in health issues that still make my life hell nearly five years later. The problems also set my child back by months on his developments something I’ll regret forever. Breast isn’t always best. It was devastating enough to have all of that foisted on me at home but to have it follow me to work – where work and career should be the focus – would have been horribly uncomfortable. OP it was nice that you got that those accommodations and hopefully they’ll be available for future employees who want them but if someone chooses not to use them that’s their right too. Please let this new mom get on with her work life in peace free from interference she apparently hasn’t asked for

      1. Kate 2

        Exactly right Gen. Some babies have starved to death while breastfeeding. I forget the technical term, but it is something that happens, which the extreme breastfeeding groups won’t tell you about. “Nature” is not perfect and going “natural” doesn’t mean that your baby will survive.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          That almost happened to me! Apparently I was incompetent on the breast (really having to refrain from making jokes here…) and if my parents hadn’t brought me to the hospital when they did I would have died at 2 weeks old or so.

          1. Rovannen

            Yes, my daughter was losing weight but happy. I had to leave her with a friend one day (all day) to get her to take a bottle. Thankfully, this was before judgy-breastfeeding people became a thing.

    6. BeautifulVoid

      Yeah, I would have let a lot roll off my back, but I probably would have wound up going to HR over the breastfeeding comments, too. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life and why they make certain choices, and it’s really none of your business.

      I take a medication that’s perfectly harmless for the fetus while in utero, but has been shown to cause diarrhea in babies if mom takes it while breastfeeding. My twins were quite early and spent time in the NICU, and having the same conversation every day for a couple weeks was annoying:

      Doctor: Are you suuuuuuuure you don’t want to try breastfeeding?
      Me: I take (Medication), remember?
      Doctor: Oh, right.

      I mean, I obviously know that there are benefits to breastfeeding. I don’t live under a rock. And yes, I’m sure there are plenty of new mothers who would benefit from having it explained to them. But it’s already such a hot-button issue for a lot of mothers, and I had a “legitimate” reason not to, so having to constantly justify my decision got old real fast. (I’m putting “legitimate” in quotes because it is a personal decision, and honestly, after hearing all sorts of stories from my friends who chose to breastfeed, I believe “I just don’t wanna” is also a valid choice.)

      1. Jules the 3rd

        God, the ‘I can’t remember you from day to day and can’t be bothered to check your medical records before dispensing medical advice’ from medical professionals is SOOOOO annoying.

        And yes, like dating someone, ‘I just don’t wanna’ is a valid choice.

    7. Sylvan

      +1. Leave it alone.

      If the baby’s getting fed and cared for, and your employee and their family are happy, it’s all good. Seriously.

      1. I was a Jimless Pam

        +1. I’m currently on week 10 and almost at the end of my rope with breastfeeding. The first few days were so hard because my baby was literally starving. She cried so much and her lips were so dry the skin was just falling off. I gave her a bottle with my sister’s encouragement and she became a different baby. At six weeks I started adding rice cereal to her nightly bottle and now I’m getting almost normal amounts of sleep. I know when I get back to work that breastfeeding is going to taper off long before the recommended year. I feel a pang of jealousy whenever I see a mom breastfeeding in public (I am not brave enough and my tendency to give her bottles in mixed company probably didn’t help my supply) or bragging about all the breast milk they’ve pumped and frozen. But you know what? My baby is happy and healthy and awesome, and she SLEEPS. Also all the stuff they say about babies fed on formula becoming obese because they don’t know when to stop is total BS. She knows when she’s hungry and just eats enough to be full. I am going to try hard to preserve our morning breastfeeding session (which is about all I have left) once I get to work, but FED is what’s best.

        1. Little Bean

          I had not heard that anyone thought babies fed on formula would become obese. This is obviously just an anecdotal case, but I was a formula-fed baby and I’ve been petite my entire life.

          1. Blue Anne

            And I was breastfed and I’m fat, ha!

            I just don’t think there’s much cause and effect there, if any.

            1. I was a Jimless Pam

              I think it’s some of the rabid pro breast feeders who’ve spread that around. Also I apologize if I came across as body shaming because I don’t care what body type my baby has because she’s an awesome human and I love her and I am not trying to raise her to think every body should look the same way or differently than nature intends it to look! I was just trying to share my own pro formula stance. Which honestly boils down to the fact that yeah, I didn’t try as hard as society tells me to, but baby and I are not only fine, we’re thriving.

          2. Elim Garak

            My husband was formula fed and suuuper fat….because my MIL misread the instructions and was feeding him a 4-Oz bottle every hour instead of every 4 hours. And he ate it.

        2. Jules the 3rd

          +1 to you! Whatever works for you and your situation!

          BTW – you hear a lot about ‘terrible twos’ – I thought it was all smooth sailing from 3 to puberty. Turns out there’s another emotional upheaval at around age 8.

        3. J.B.

          Hey, good on you for knowing what you need and to get your kid to be healthy. I can tell you that I wished I had not breastfed the 2nd child due to fun things like mastitis and mostly because pumping is awful. Oodles of frozen milk made me want to cry ;)

          The studies on the health effects are not of great quality. In the first world it amounts to roughly one fewer bug a year.

    8. Susan K

      Yeah, I’m sure the OP had good intentions, but in addition to the fact that there can be a lot of judgment about breastfeeding, it is also a private medical thing, and I would be super uncomfortable with a manager who insisted on discussing it. The part about printing out info on insurance coverage for a breast pump crosses a boundary. I think very few women would want to discuss their breasts with their managers. Very few people want to discuss their bodies and medical information with their managers in general.

    9. Let's Talk About Splett

      The leaving the printout about getting reimbursed for the breast pump would have set me off if I was the employee.

      1. KRM

        Yep. That should only have happened if the employee SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED IT. And even then I probably would have emailed the info for her to print out herself.

    10. LKW

      Yeah, the arrangements for breastfeeding reflects the LWs’s needs, and not the employee’s needs. Not all women want to or are able to breastfeed. It’s a very personal decision. The company spent money because the LW decided that “of course” the employee would breastfeed but didn’t discuss the employee’s plans at all. Well intentioned but crossed a line.

    11. EvanMax

      We have two friends that had babies last year who couldn’t breastfeed. The first was just completely incapable of it. The second had a baby with latch issues, and the nurses/lactation specialists in the hospital messed up badly in handling her so that by the time they allowed her to pump her supply was all dried up.

      I can only imagine how upset either of those women would have been returning to work, having their boss harass them about why they aren’t breast feeding. Both of them wanted to breastfeed, talked about it as their plan during pregnancy (my wife was pregnant at the same time too, so we all discussed birth and infancy plans) and were devastated when that options was taken away from them. Also, both of their formula fed daughters are healthy and happy adorable babies.

      Forcing an employee (or any co-worker) into a conversation about their medical decisions should never be done. I actually don’t think leaving the breastpump print-out on the employee’s desk prior to birth was a bad idea (it’s informing her of benefits she can take advantage of that are common enough that you can assume that she might want to factor that in to her personal decision making.) There is no place for you to DISCUSS her decisions w/r/t breastmilk unless she invites you to that discussion, though.

      1. Safetykats

        Actually, I think leaving the breastpump info on the employee’s desk was also crossing a line. It sounds like the company has a perfectly functional HR department; discussing specific medical benefits with employees should be their task. Again, pregnancy makes people weirdly and inappropriately eager to insert themselves into your private business – but a good metric might be to substitute any other piece of medical equipment and ask if it would be appropriate to do this. Would you be leaving information on what insurance would pay for a walker or wheelchair for an employee who has having a knee replacement? Information on peritoneal dialysis machines for an employee with a kidney infection? Information on nebulizers for an employee with a chronic cough?

        The appropriate thing for a manager to do is to offer up that Benefits is happy to explain coverage options, if employee desires. It’s actually weird and inappropriate that manager was researching the employee’s insurance coverage as regards durable medical equipment the employee might not want or need. I would have all kinds of confidentiality concerns if my manager was researching my medical conditions and insurance coverage and then leaving hard copy information on my desk for anyone to see.

    12. Kelly

      How a mother chooses to feed her newborn, whether it is breast, bottle, or a combination of the two is a very personal decision. My mother chose a combination of the two for both my sister and myself 30+ years ago and she got a decent amount of second guessing from her in laws who didn’t approve of her choice to breastfeed. She remembered not being able to breast feed us in the open with a blanket covering herself up at her MIL & FIL’s house. Instead, she had to go to the bathroom. My dad didn’t care if she did that at home, but it bothered his mother. They used arguments the arguments that others, meaning them couldn’t feed us with a bottle, which was incorrect because we have pictures of dad holding us as babies with a bottle in hand while she was busy cooking.

      She commented when she saw one of her nieces breast feeding her kid at a family reunion that it’s nice for both the women and children that more people accept it and encourage it now.

    13. Salamander

      +1. Frankly, this pressure about the employee breastfeeding is appalling. What other women choose to do with their bodies is absolutely NONE of anyone else’s business. The LW overstepped badly, and she owes her employee a serious apology.

    14. LBK

      I know breastfeeding is an extremely sensitive topic, but FWIW I read the OP as just making it clear to the employee that the arrangements were there and it was really okay if she needed to pump at work – not insisting that that’s what she should be doing. I can imagine it feeling like one of those things that your employee claims is fine but is looked at weirdly, or that you’re not actually given time for, so to me that was just the OP doubling down on being supportive and offering the option if she needed it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the things that was challenging for the OP to work around when she was a new mother – having to sneak off to some remote conference room and hope no one would barge in or wonder where she was.

      I understand because of how sensitive a subject breastfeeding can be, it can come off like pushing the employee to breastfeed even if she doesn’t want to, but I don’t know if that was necessarily the OP’s intention the way people seem to be interpreting it.

      1. TootsNYC

        That will still come across as pushy.
        Because the new mom KNEW the pumping room was there, remember? She was told about all these options before she went on leave.

        So if she knows, and she’s not using, why else would you bring it up, except that you think she SHOULD use it?

        It reminds me of my MIL, who would say, “there is more pasta,” and I’m like, “The bowl is right in front of me, I can see.” Why else would she bring it up–does she think I’m blind, or stupid? No, she thinks I should eat more pasta.

        1. LBK

          But I think it folds into everything else that the OP was trying to make clear was available to the employee – the flexible schedule, the time off, etc. I think people are singling out breastfeeding because it’s such a sensitive subject, but I don’t get any sense from the letter that the OP was judging the employee’s choice not to breastfeed, any moreso than she was judging her for not taking advantage of the available accommodations in general.

          So yes, OP was being pushy, but she was being broadly pushy – there’s a ton of comments that really honed in on the breastfeeding part in a way that, to me, doesn’t feel applicable to the letter.

      2. Chelsea

        OP literally told this woman, after being informed that the mother was NOT breastfeeding, that it was still an option. No. Just…absolutely no. Not even the slightest bit appropriate

  12. Leave it to Beaver

    I don’t know why this letter irks me so much, but it does. It feels like an odd combination: a selfish good samaritan? I feel like this is a personality type that is becoming more and more prevalent in the work place. Those who feel it’s incumbent on them to inform other employees about the great wide world that is available to them and then get angry when others don’t take advantage of their information. It’s bizarre behavior.

    1. Magenta Sky

      Where I grew up in Nebraska, the term was “malice ridden do-gooder” (though I think that’s an overstatement of what happened here). This was decades ago; it’s not a new phenomenon. People who believe that they, and only they, know what’s best for others. Mostly (and again, I doubt that’s the case here) in ways that do more for the do-gooder than for the recipient of their attention. (Not necessarily in any tangible way. Mostly, in ways that bring an emotional satisfaction at one’s own importance. If you can’t live without my advice, well, then I *matter*.)

      Was the letter writer motivated by a desire to do good for her employee? Yeah, seems likely. But was she also motivated by her own experience? I suspect so, whether she realizes it or not. But the past can’t be changed, no matter how hard we wish it could.

        1. Magenta Sky

          Be careful how you use it. It’s a deadly insult to some of the people it describes.

      1. HS Teacher

        It happens to me when people get offended on my behalf. I belong to a half dozen or so minority groups, and I hate when well-meaning friends get offended about something for me.

        1. Ex-Humanities student

          May I ask why ? I can understand that it might feel “fake”, or at least not rooted in personal experiences, but at the same time, you shouldn’t have to be a minority to hate how they are treated.
          I do not like men who spend hours telling me how they are good feminists, but I am happy when a man doesn’t laugh at a sexist joke or when he finds it offensive.

      2. Leave it to Beaver

        I hear ya. I don’t see malice here, either and I know it’s not a new thing. But, my experience 10 years ago was mostly with know-it-alls who were convinced their way was right, compared to issue-oriented do-gooders who want to be lauded for their devotion to a particular issue. That doesn’t change the attempt to do good works, but it does change the motivation and makes it quite a bit more sticky and, for lack of a better word, gross. Though, I may be in the minority, because I honestly think it would be better to not do a good deed, if you feel you deserve accolades for it.

        1. Magenta Sky

          Intentional malice is rare, yeah. But people who honestly believe they know what’s best for, well, everyone was common enough in the culture there that their recipients tended to paint with a wide brush. Whether you intend good or harm, if the end result was bad, you got labeled a malice-ridden do-gooder.

          “Though, I may be in the minority, because I honestly think it would be better to not do a good deed, if you feel you deserve accolades for it.”

          Couldn’t agree more. The only true charity is anonymous. Whether you feel you *deserve* accolades for it or not, you like getting them, it’s as much about you as about the good works you do. (Though I would never hesitate to encourage you to do those good works, even if I think you’re a selfish jerk looking to feed your own ego.)

      3. LKW

        That is a great term. A good clue if someone is a MRDG – “But don’t you want/think/feel…?” When you say “No thanks” that’s out of their mouth immediately.

      4. Spider

        I have to laugh — my mother was totally a “malice ridden do-gooder” AND she was born and raised in Nebraska. She should have known better!

        1. Magenta Sky

          That part of north-eastern Nebraska was settled by mostly German immigrants from roughly the same part of Germany, and they brought a lot of culture with them. Part of that culture is women with very strong personalities. Mostly, that manifests as the stereotypical woman who is the anchor of the family, and woe unto the world if you mess with her or her own. But sometimes, it turns into the malice-ridden do-gooder who *will* tell you how to live your life, for your own good, even if it kills you.

          I learned at a very young age how to derail that crap. Bullies (and that’s ultimately the mentality) need to be called out immediately and told to back off (and they usually do). And when they fall back on the passive/aggressive manipulation that usually amounts to “If you loved me, you’d take my advice,” the only appropriate response is “Then I guess I don’t love you.” Shuts ’em right up.

          (None of this applies to the letter writer, who isn’t anywhere near the same league as the people I’m talking about. But she might well have been painted with the same wide brush by people who are especially sensitive to it.)

    2. NoThanksGirl

      It’s the Martyr type, and it’s so annoying. They make “sacrifices” that nobody wanted or asked for, then get mad at people for failing to perform sufficient gratitude (and there’s no such thing as a SUFFICIENT gratitude to this type).

      A former friend once INSISTED on throwing me a birthday party, refusing to accept my stated desire not to have one. She would not accept my disinterest. She decided to throw me a “surprise” party, and bullied other people into agreeing to attend, and guilt-tripped people who couldn’t go. Fortunately these friends knew me well enough to give me a heads-up about this nonsense. I called her out on it, and she got angry at me for my lack of appreciation of all the nice things she was trying to do for me.

      She ended up bailing on the party at the last minute because she was so “hurt” by my ingratitude. Ended up going to the movies with a few other people; had fun and didn’t make a whole thing about my birthday.

      As I said, she is a FORMER friend. I would lose my shit if my boss were a self-appointed martyr.

      1. Leave it to Beaver

        I give no quarter martyrs. They are way too exhausting. I can be a bit aloof until I get to know folks, so usually my lack of enthusiasm is enough to send them off screaming in the other direction before they get to attached.

    3. Anonygrouse

      +1 — reminded me of the LW bringing in all the cereal for charity in this morning’s short answer post.

      1. Positive Reframer

        I don’t think that was really the issue there. I’d be taken aback if I was doing what someone told me to and then getting told I did it wrong and to just stop. The pyramid thing was maybe over the top but not intuitively so.

    4. smoke tree

      My read of this letter is just that the letter writer took the whole situation way too personally. It sounds like she was really emotionally invested in providing her employee with the benefits she herself wished she could have had. I don’t think she was motivated by wanting to look good, but she took it all so personally that she kind of stepped all over normal work boundaries in the process.

    5. fposte

      I think that’s too hard. What the OP is talking about is something a lot of people desperately want, and I think for her getting these polices for her staffer was a way to put the universe right after she herself had a much worse maternity experience: “By God, I can make sure *somebody* gets this.” That doesn’t mean it’s okay for her to bug her staffer, or that there’s anything wrong with her staffer’s choices! But think of it as wanting somebody to vote if you fought for suffrage or fair poll access.

      I think other people upthread are helpfully pointing out that it was still valuable to the employee to have a choice and that it’s not all just about this employee; hopefully that will help the OP reframe her thinking. But I don’t think it has to be selfish for it to be misguided in this particular case.

      1. Leave it to Beaver

        The suffrage analogy is a good one and I can see what you’re saying. But, the fact that the LW is “disappointed” that her employee didn’t take advantage and can’t seem to get past it is what I find most troubling.

        1. fposte

          I agree that she’s still taking this personally, and it’s bad that she’s hurting the person she’s deeply wanting to help. But I think–hope!–that writing to Alison and getting feedback in comments will help her realize that she does have to get past that and to start moving there.

        2. Genny

          I can understand being disappointed if her mindset was to right the wrong done to her when she needed access to these services. She probably felt that she was fighting hard for “the right thing that all mothers want/need”, and so rejection of that feels like a step back for working mothers’ rights (I can also understand it feeling like a slap in the face when someone rejects something you would’ve killed for).

          As others have said, she needs to reframe the whole thing. Instead of thinking about it as “the right thing that all mothers want/need”, think of it as giving this woman (and hopefully anyone else at the company who needs it) options so that she could choose what makes the most sense for her family. That’s not a step back for working moms, it’s a step forward.

      2. Anonymeece

        Bingo – and also, not just something a lot of people desperately want, but something the OP desperately wanted when she was a new mom, which makes it hard to not take it personally.

        I still think OP crossed a line and should have asked, but I also am sympathetic. I had a similar experience just recently, in fact. I graduated during the recession and finding a full-time job was horrid. I sent out application after application only to get rejected, and heard from my dad that I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Eventually, I got this position.
        I had a full-time position open up and there was an employee of mine, recently graduated, who was perfect for it. I asked him if he’d be interested, he said yes, and I advocated hard for him, only for him to withdraw right before he would have had his final interview.

        Was I disappointed? Hell yeah. My first thought was, “I would have killed for this opportunity!”. But my second thought was: “It’s his decision, not mine. His circumstances aren’t the same.”

        So OP, if you’re reading, it’s cool to be disappointed. It’s cool to think in your head, “I would have killed for this!”. Just make sure you’re not showing it, and remember that it’s her decision, not yours.

    6. Rainy

      Some years ago, I was eating calamari in a seafood bar in Vegas waiting for my now-fiancé to get off of work, and the woman who was seated next to me–I never got her name!–was a speaker and author, and we started talking. We talked about a lot of stuff, and she was amazing, but the thing that has stuck with me is this: “Don’t offer help without making sure the help you’re offering is the help the other person wants or needs.” She went on to say that women in particular are so inculcated with the idea of taking on emotional labor (although I don’t think the term really existed then per se) that we often do it without asking if the person actually needs or wants our labor.

      “Save yourself the time and effort and actually ask what people need and want. If they say ‘nothing’, BELIEVE THEM,” she told me. It was like a whole new world of not wasting my time and energy guessing what someone wants and then doing it and not getting thanked and feeling bad about it. Using your words: it works!

      Where this manager went wrong wasn’t caring about her report’s well-being–it was presuming to know better what she would need than she did, and thus not asking. There may be an element of that weird mummy-knows-it-all thing that some people get, but it may just be the desire to actively master what she passively suffered as a new mum herself. I have sympathy for the latter, if not the former, but no matter the intent, the actions this manager took were GROTESQUELY inappropriate.

    7. TaterB

      Oh, I know why it irks me: I’ve dealt with these folks ever since I was 13 and my mom died. Since then, people have always tried to fill that motherly role by giving me advice that I didn’t ask for and don’t need. I don’t have children yet, but I already know this same brigade is going to jump all over me about my parenting choices.

      I’m ready for them this time.

      1. BenAdminGeek

        TaterB, this comment section would be happy to fill that motherly role if ever needed. That may involve arguing amongst ourselves for 55 comments, but hey, that’s how most convos with my mom go.

    8. Butch Cassidy

      I’m a big old Enneagram nerd and this is a perfect example of a less-healthy version of my type, “The Helper.” When the motivation to care for others comes from a need to be needed or seen as helpful and giving rather than a more pure expression of concern and affection.

      LW, you started with your heart in the right place. Your mistake wasn’t intending to be helpful, it was in being overconfident in what help you thought would be best for this person, then taking it as a personal slight when the help was rejected. You can keep that core drive to be caring and express it in a more healthy and productive way.

    9. Tuxedo Cat

      For me, it’s partially that the OP (despite her intentions) is making someone’s personal decisions about the OP and the recipient. Coupled with women having a lot of pressure to breastfeed and issues around being a working mother, it just kind sucks for the woman who just gave birth (who I imagine is still healing and adjusting to being a parent).

      1. Leave it to Beaver

        The breastfeeding pressure is real, I agree. My sister-in-law spent weeks (if not months) trying to breastfeed her daughter, tried lactation consultants and remedies up and down the board. Then became depressed when it didn’t work. She fortunately had a very supportive doctor, friends and family. But, I can only imagine what a situation like this would have done to her when she was in such a fragile state.

    10. Jam Today

      You have it exactly right. This isn’t a desire to help for the benefit of the person they’re helping, its a desire to help because they want everyone to see how helpful they are. This is just showboating. The comment about probably never having another pregnant staffer again was the clincher. What, so nobody will get to see what an awesome boss you are?

    11. TootsNYC

      I don’t think it’s malice, and I don’t think it’s so bizarre.

      But I do think it is very strongly self-focused. Which is not good.

      The emphasis is on how the giver feels, and not on how the recipient does.

      It’s like diaper cakes–those are all about getting attention for the giver. If you wanted to just give them diapers, you’d just give them diapers.

      Only this is worse, because the LW spent the employee’s “capital” as well.

    12. AK

      But so common. My mom does this – she means well, but she always tries to help out other versions of herself instead of the actual person, and is mortally offended whenever anyone suggests they aren’t actually the same person and hence have different wants and needs. Cue 45 minutes of passive aggressive “I just don’t understand why you/they don’t want…..” scolding while I nod blankly. I can put up with it because she’s my mom, but at work? Over something this personal? Hell no. I’m sure LW meant well, most people do. But other people’s choices aren’t about you, and if you want to help them you actually need to help *them*.

  13. Snark

    OP, your intentions are good, but this is why it’s a bad idea to work with people as if they’re representatives of a category, rather then individuals. I once arrived at a job with a shiny new TDD sitting on my desk, which I didn’t need, and which I most certainly did not want, because it would give folks the wrong impression about my hearing loss and how to accomodate it. You did the same thing. Always ask. Always make it a collaboration.

    Oh, and it’s a real bad look to be disappointed that someone isn’t taking accomodations you didn’t ask them if they wanted, or that they’re not caring for their child as you feel they could or should. You’re her boss. Stay in your lane.

  14. Bend & Snap

    This is why it’s a good idea to have maternity policies in place. That’s all really nice, but should have been framed as options, not special accommodations that the employee must take.

    I worked for a Fortune 200 when I had my daughter so everything was very clear cut. The only question I got from my female boss when I returned was “Are you…?” with a squeezing hand motion, to see if I needed pumping breaks. LOL. The answer was no, but I had no desire to get into the fact that my milk dried up at 6 weeks no matter how hard I tried, pumped, took supplements, etc. Breastfeeding is an incredibly personal decision with a lot of variables, none of which are a boss’s business.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Ha, the cow-milking gesture! SO awkward.

      I am not a parent and, at this stage, it’s very unlikely that I’ll ever get pregnant, but it drives me absolutely insane when people talk like breastfeeding is no big thing and everyone can/should do it. I have so many friends who had trouble for all kinds of reasons and still others who decided not to breastfeed at all. And then there are the people I know who adopted infants or used a surrogate so breastfeeding wasn’t even on the table to begin with.

      1. EvanMax

        Just to toss it out there, since I’ve seen it mentioned a couple of times here, breastfeeding isn’t actually completely off the table for adoptive mothers.

        When my daughter was born we experienced both latch issues and supply issues, so the lactation counselor at the hospital had use engage in SNS (supplemental nursing system) feeding, which was originally developed to simulate breastfeeding for adoptive mothers, and encourage the production of milk.

        It involved have a tube with one end held by the nipple (so the infant is latching the both) and the other attached to a syringe filled with milk or formula. You slowly feed the syringe to the infant, with the idela being that the infant is the one pulling from their end.

        We never did resolve our latch issues, but my wife’s supply came in within a few days of using this method, when we switched to expressing and bottle feeding. There was the “added bonus” that I was able to be involved in the feeding of my daughter from day one, as a father, as I was the one holding the syringe and tube while my wife held the baby.

        I don’t know what success rates of inducing lactation are for adoptive mothers using this method (I suspect they are lower than when it is used for women who have just given birth or who have been previously lactating and had a supply decrease), but this method is indeed used to induce lactation in adoptive mothers.

        But of course, whether or not an adoptive mother wants to do this, or to discuss the fact that they are or aren’t doing this with anyone else, is no one’s business but her own.

        1. Atalanta0jess

          Good for y’all for managing the SNS! I hated that thing with a fiery passion and could never get it to work right.

    2. beanie beans

      Agree – it’s so important to have a policy in place! If the OP can reframe the whole experience as working really hard to get a maternity policy in place rather than accommodations for this specific employee, maybe that will help her feel like the work was worth it. Future employees will appreciate the options (whether they choose to take them or not). And just because you don’t forsee any future pregnancies in the office doesn’t mean they won’t happen!

    3. Positive Reframer

      Better to specifically ask if they need pumping accommodations. Some women do breastfeed but don’t pump at work especially as their nurslings get older. So asking them if they are breastfeeding wouldn’t give you the information you are looking for anyway.

  15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    Oh, OP, I gasped when I got to the point that you were pressuring your employee to still breastfeed. It sounds like you may have projected your wants from your pregnancy experience onto your employee—a lot of your language doesn’t focus on your employee, it focuses on your feelings. It doesn’t sound like at any point you considered your employee’s feelings. You assumed she’d want certain accommodation because you wished you’d had those accommodations. I suspect that’s why you crossed the line by haranguing your employee about breastfeeding (!!!), which is objectively super inappropriate.

    It also sounds like you’ve gotten too emotionally invested in having a pregnant employee. You’re complaining about retiring before having another pregnant employee! With all due respect, that’s a little odd! Your employees’ pregnancies are really not about you or about demonstrating what an awesome boss you are. This is like buying a semi-stranger an unwanted gift and then complaining that they aren’t happy/grateful enough.

    Going to bat for family friendly policies is a good thing, but when it’s employee specific (as opposed to a general practice of accommodation), it would have been better to confirm that your employee wanted that accommodation. And as a general rule, really don’t comment on someone’s family and child-rearing practices unless you think someone’s in danger.

    1. Teapot Tester

      Yes, this was my thought as well. There’s a lot of projection going on here and I’m flabbergasted that the OP made a lot of assumptions, as we all know what happens when you assume. I also felt the OP is too emotionally invested in having a pregnant employee.

    2. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

      This is so very far over the line to me. The employee had to defend her personal choices in order to get the OP to back off (well in an attempt to, and then the employee had to involve HR to get the OP to back off, and even then the OP is still on about it)

      The OPs initial actions would have been welcome by many women but the employee should have never had to defend her personal decisions the first time, let alone second, third, etc. :(

      1. Maude

        The fact that the employee felt the need to escalate this to HR indicates how persistent and possibly shaming the OP was on the breastfeeding issue. This is a sensitive topic for me as I tried to breastfeed, it didn’t work out and while no one directly questioned me about it, I felt judged by a few other mothers. I cannot imagine my boss asking about something so personal multiple times.

        1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

          I couldn’t breastfeed either and lemme tell you I never explained it to person one because it was none of their damn business. At least that was the early ’90s! What we put new mothers through today is appalling (to me).

    3. CMFDF

      YES, omg. If the employee had never breastfed her baby, she couldn’t just start breastfeeding 8 weeks later because she had accommodations from her boss – that is a fundamental misunderstanding of how breastfeeding even works. It *wasn’t* “still possible.” She shouldn’t have to tell you, “I never breastfed” or “I had to stop because…” or “I didn’t think pumping would be feasible at the office, so I stopped,” or whatever. It’s only your business in the sense that if she were pumping, she might be away from her desk in order to pump, so something you might be vaguely aware of. Not actually a conversation you have input in.

      The accommodations you arranged for her are actually fantastic (I also would have loved to have them when my kid was born), and hopefully your company adopts them as a policy overall. But that doesn’t mean she is required to use them – your only responsibility as far as making sure your employee took advantage of them was to tell her that all of this *was available* to her. She’s not required to take 12 + 8 weeks – that’s a really long time to be alone with a baby. Some people are not cut out to be home with children full time. She doesn’t need to explain herself to you. She has made several different choices than I have made, and different choices than you would have liked to make, but she didn’t do it to somehow stick it to you. You remember what it’s like to be a new mom? There’s no way she’s even thinking about you when she’s deciding things. These things have absolutely nothing to do with you.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        It might actually be medically possible; there are adoptive mothers who have successfully induced lactation even though they didn’t give birth. But it’s a difficult process involving lots of time and effort, and still doesn’t always work.

        And, more to the point, the employee chooses not to. That is literally the only thing that matters.

        I’m very happily still breastfeeding my 18-month-old and think it’s been great, but I know that the ONLY time anyone should offer advice about breastfeeding is when it’s REQUESTED. IMO, even doctors/nurses/lactation consultants in the hospital should ask, “Do you want some advice about breastfeeding?” and take “No, thank you” for an answer!

        1. CMFDF

          It also usually involves a medication that the FDA has banned for human use in the US. I know several people who have used it, but they’ve had to import it illegally, or use animal medication off-brand. So yes, it’s technically possible, but if you’re in the US, the hoops required to jump through to make that happen, assuming that’s what you want, can be far too wide and complicated to make it truly feasible.

          And I’ve been nursing for 2 years, but the only time I say a single thing in the vein of advice is if I’ve been explicitly asked. Because it’s none of my business, no one owes me (or anyone) an explanation.

        2. HRKylie

          I think the biggest source of stress for me during pregnancy right now is anticipating some pushy lactation specialist getting up in my biz while I’m at my most vulnerable and emotional. I really hope they take “No, thank you,” for an answer.

          1. mrs__peel

            If you wanted to, you could deputize a family member or friend to act as your advocate and push back on that firmly if there are any issues. You have rights as a patient, including who comes into your room and handles your body.

            (I don’t have kids myself, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from friends and relatives– as a health care attorney, it makes my blood boil!)

            1. NewWorkingMama

              If this helps your stress level at all, I saw a few different lactation specialists in the hospital (they kind of just wander in and out) and one happened to come in when I was literally crying trying to figure out how to feed this baby (hey, it hurts!) who was very aggressive with latching. This (lovely, saintly, amazing) woman who I expected to tell me to suck it up was like Oh my poor dear! Immediately gave me a pacifier for the baby, heat packs for me, along with a medication for soothing, and then showed me how to get the colostrum out by hand onto a spoon and my husband fed her like a little baby bird. Obviously I was trying to make it work, but I use the story to illustrate that there are some very understanding helpful specialists out there and if you are clear with your intentions, you’ll be fine. Good luck!!

    4. DCompliance

      I’m due in October and I am going to make my best effort to breastfeed if possible, but somebody keeping track of how often I use the lactation room just creeps me out.

  16. Rusty Shackelford

    Are you disappointed in her because you arranged for all these nice perks and she didn’t use them? Or are you disappointed because you arranged for her to handle her maternity leave the way you thought she should, and she didn’t do that? The first is understandable, the second is very, very judgey.

    1. Oryx

      Except it sounds like the OP didn’t even ask first if the employee even wanted these perks, so no I don’t think it’s understandable to be disappointed after the fact. It comes across as very “Look at this nice thing I did. Aren’t I wonderful? Why aren’t you thanking me?”

      1. Murphy

        Yeah, it would be somewhat different if OP’s employee asked for these accommodations and then didn’t use them. (Although there are many reasons that plans might change.)

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Eh, I still think it’s understandable that someone would think they were doing something nice and helpful, and be disappointed when the recipient didn’t want it.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Personal feelings of disappointment are fine. Expressing that disappointment to the employee isn’t.

          OP, you’ve laid the groundwork for future new mothers at your company to be able to make a wide range of choices. That’s great! Even if you’ve retired and don’t see it in person, you’ve still had a positive impact. But let this employee’s choices be just that – her own choices.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Yes, that’s what I’m getting at. It’s normal to be disappointed that someone doesn’t want something you did for them. It’s completely inappropriate to be so angry about it, or to try to make your employee feel bad about it, especially considering that you simply assumed they would want it without asking.

            Bottom line is, if you do something for someone and they don’t want it, you’re not doing it for them, you’re doing it to them.

          2. Oxford Comma

            All of this. I suspect a lot of mothers would like the options you arranged for your staffer. Maybe try to make these things available as a matter of policy.

            But they should be that. Options. Options that employees are free to select or not select. The reasons should be their own. Not yours.

        2. Observer

          It’s understandable to be disappointed. It’s not so understandable to be disappointed with THE PERSON WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THESE FAVORS.

        3. mrs__peel

          Actually, I don’t think it IS reasonable to be disappointed when you didn’t ask first what the other person wanted. In those circumstances, rejection of the efforts is one of two possible (and entirely predictable) responses.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I honestly read it that LW arranged how she wished her maternity leave could have been and is disappointed that her employee didn’t want the same things.

      1. Fergus

        Imagine if the employee told the OP she didn’t want any more children, and OP said i think the company can accommodate paying for the surgery to have the employee’s uterus removed.

        1. Momofpeanut

          No, if the employer arranged for the employee’s uterus to be removed and then got upset because the employee didn’t jump right on the surgery date.

      2. Legal Beagle

        Spot on. It’s like a parent who always wanted to achieve X but didn’t, so they try to push their kid to achieve X so the parent can live vicariously though the kid. It’s an understandable impulse but it’s still NOT OK. And in a boss-employee relationship, hugely intrusive and boundary-violating.

      3. RUKiddingMe

        So did I, especially since she pointed out that it wasn’t available when she was a new mom, and how this is basically her last chance for an employee to have a baby before she retires. This was about her.

  17. Guacamole Bob

    The thing that stuck out at me here is the minor detail that OP reminded this employee that breastfeeding and pumping would still be possible… after she got back to work at least 8 weeks postpartum. That’s… not how it works? At least for the vast majority of women I know, not breastfeeding or pumping for even a couple of weeks postpartum means that you’ve missed the window and your milk won’t come in anymore. OP refers to her experiences with her own children, but I think she’s somehow lost touch with the reality of having a new baby.

    And one other perspective to consider: I took more like 5 months off, but I developed postpartum depression that didn’t really start to lift until I went back to work and started feeling like I hadn’t lost touch with everything that made me who I was pre-baby. Having a boss who was actively trying to make me feel guilty for going back to work would have been hugely harmful to my mental health. I had some extenuating circumstances that complicated the situation (difficult pregnancy, twins, some medical complications with one of the babies), but there are plenty of women who, for one reason or another, do not find maternity leave to be a delightful time of staring contentedly into the eyes of their new little precious bundle of joy. It’s really not helpful for others to question their choices or make assumptions about what’s best for mother or child.

    1. Teapot Tester

      Actually, women can often produce milk again even after it has seemingly dried up. There have been women who’ve served as a wet nurse in times of emergency after their own babies had weaned. It’s not something you hear a lot about because most don’t try, once they’re done, they’re done, for whatever reasons.

      That being said, it was still very wrong of the OP to harangue the employee about not giving up on breastfeeding, whether it’s possible or not.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        I’m sure that this is sometimes true. I’m equally sure that not all women’s bodies work that way, and that for at least some of the ones that do it would take a *lot* of effort to make it happen – like the 20 minute pumping sessions every 3 hours around the clock for several days that it took for my milk to come in at the needed volume in the first place (for twins who weren’t strong nursers due to being a bit early).

        But I’d like to gently suggest that this kind of comment is part of the reason that so many women have miserable guilt-ridden experiences when breastfeeding doesn’t go perfectly. Women are constantly bombarded with messages that imply that if they aren’t producing enough milk or that if breastfeeding isn’t working for them, then they just aren’t trying hard enough. In practical terms, suggesting that an 8-week postpartum mother start breastfeeding from scratch is pretty absurd. It may be biologically true that some women can do it, but it’s not particularly helpful and just adds to the pressure that is placed on women to make breastfeeding work even if the circumstances are pretty subpar.

        1. another STEM programmer

          Thank you for this, Guacamole. I’m sure Teapot Tester meant well, but their comment came off as yet another clamoring voice shaming women for not breastfeeding in the way that they, a complete stranger, finds acceptable.

          1. Teapot Tester

            That was not my intention at all, and I don’t see where you’re reading into me shaming women for not breastfeeding. All I said was it is possible to breastfeed after milk has dried up. It was a statement of fact and no opinion at all was included. Did you miss my last statement about it being wrong to harangue the new mom? To be clear: even though it IS possible for milk to come in later on, that’s not something the OP should have told her employee.

            1. Guacamole Bob

              I know you didn’t mean to shame women for not breastfeeding. I reacted to the fact that your comments are part of a larger societal pattern, where basically any time someone says something about not breastfeeding, someone else chimes in with “but have you tried X? have you seen a lactation consultant? here’s a book on the 17 different ways to position your baby for a good latch. you know, I took these 23 supplements and never had any trouble. Pumps have improved so much these days. If you’re in pain you’re just doing it wrong. I know a woman who climbed to the top of a mountain 3 times a day because the altitude made the pump more efficient, so maybe you should try that.” No single comment is harmful on its own, but the cumulative effect is that women are constantly told that no excuse is good enough to not breastfeed.

              I know you meant your comment as an interesting factoid, but to a woman swimming in the sea of breastfeeding messaging the implication is “even having stopped for a while is no excuse”.

              1. Teapot Tester

                I understand where you’re coming from, and I was reacting more to another STEM programmer telling me that I’m “yet another clamoring voice shaming women” because that is so far from how I feel about the subject that it’s laughable. But you’re right that my comment wasn’t really helpful and I’ll keep that in mind.

                1. JerryLarryTerryGary

                  I found the comment interesting. Especially in the context of 100s of comments supporting the employee and her choice, and the caveat provided in the comment, I don’t realky think it contributes to breast-feeding pressure.

      2. Positive Reframer

        There are definitely ways. With the right therapies it CAN be possible. Some women are able to breastfeed their adopted child. Some women induce lactation for non-baby feeding reasons. Some men are able to induce lactation. The presumption is generally that it won’t work but there is enough chance of success that people find it worthwhile. From what I’ve heard it is almost always still necessary to supplement in these cases.

        That’s more to give hope to people who strongly desire that outcome though than to try and convince someone to try again if they aren’t really invested in the first place.

      3. Observer

        That really is pushing it. It’s not possible for a lot of women, and even for the women who CAN do it, it’s a LOT of work. Enough so that even truly gently suggesting it is WAAY out of line for anyone other than a close friend responding to a mother expressing regrets. For a supervisor to “suggest” this in the face of someone who says that she is happy the way she is, is appalling. And, it’s so out of the norm that bringing it up in this context comes off like justifying the unjustifiable.

        1. Teapot Tester

          Yes, I totally agree that it was way out of line for her to suggest it. I’m just saying it’s not impossible for it to happen, should it be what the mom wants and if she wants to put in the time and effort.

      4. LilySparrow

        With an established supply? Maybe. If you NEVER tried to bf at all? Highly unlikely. And certainly not by occasionally using the pumping room at work.

  18. Work Wardrobe

    You have no right at all to be disappointed in her.

    That’s as crazy as saying “I’m disappointed that my boss doesn’t like the color blue.”

    1. Layla

      I’m going to start using that in my life, in all sorts of situations. It gives a clear litmus test.

    2. Oilpress

      So true. This letter was outrageous. It made me cringe to think there are managers out there who judge their employees based on this sort of non-work related stuff. It’s so unfair.

  19. Wannabe Disney Princess

    “I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it.”

    Unless this is about a poor decision she made regarding a work assignment, you do not get to be disappointed in her. Full stop.

    You started off saying you wanted to be a supportive manager. Judging someone for their choices is the exact opposite of that. Your heart was, initially, in the right place. But you took a sharp left turn. And then kept going.

    I would apologize, ONCE, to your employee. And then let her come to you with anything she needs. That’s how you behave as a supportive manager.

  20. AcademiaNut

    One way to look at this is that *this* employee didn’t need what you had arranged, but the next employee who gets pregnant might be very grateful for it. And it’s a good idea to have policies (and facilities) for breastfeeding, possibilities for paid leave and flexible work and so on discussed before it’s needed, so it’s the company’s policy, not something arranged for a particular employee.

    1. Ashie

      Yes, this is a great opportunity to take those things that you advocated for and “codify” them for all new moms. They’re already approved, now all you have to do is write them down. The next new mom (and there will be one, even if it’s after you retire) won’t need anyone to go to bat for her because the policy will already be in place. You did a great job for moms, OP, just not this particular one.

      1. Creag an Tuire

        Not just moms! Remember, OP, some day a new dad (like your report’s partner) might appreciate that parental leave.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          Yes, my company recently rolled out an updated leave policy for parents that is so well-designed and generous I considered having another kid… briefly.

    2. AES

      +1 on this. OP is laying good groundwork for future employees who MIGHT want these accommodations, and the sooner her company can make them official policy rather than “special privileges” the better. Maybe she can channel her disappointment into working with HR and her superiors to formalize all of this. (While also leaving the employee the hell alone!)

      1. Magenta Sky

        “+1 on this. OP is laying good groundwork for future employees who MIGHT want these accommodations”

        In keeping with the law of unintended consequences, I wonder about that, too. Next pregnant employee, her boss goes to bat with HR for the same accommodations and the powers that be think, “Well, that last women who got pregnant and didn’t want any of that, so why should be bother to set it all up?”

        And then, somebody notices that the one who was offered the extra time off was Caucasian, and the one who was denied isn’t.

        Which is why policies on this sort of thing should *always* be formalized, in writing, in the employee manual, never to vary (because special circumstances are covered in the policy).

        (And part of that policy should probably be some kind of form for the employee to fill out as to what they *want*.)

    3. Kelly L.

      Yes, this–I’m thinking having this worked out and ready to go will help the next person.

    4. Anon for this

      LOL. No other employee is ever getting that again. Why would a small company that doesn’t have to ever put themselves out again? The employee didn’t have to take advantage of any of that, but she did screw future moms.

      1. Short fuse

        I don’t think the employee screwed anyone out of any future perks. If anything the employee has shown the company, and HR, that future parents should be asked what accommodations they would like.

      2. Snark

        Oh, holy shit, did you actually just say that? You want a chance to walk that back, or can I tear that last sentence to shreds now?

        1. Eye of Sauron

          Please commence the shredding… I’d do it but I’m weeping for humanity at this point.

        2. Anon for this

          Oh, holy shit, I did. Oh my god, is someone snarkily going to tear me to shreds on the Internet? Whatever shall I do?

          For the record, yes, I did mean my comment how Fuzzy and Cmart read it. But go ahead and feel superior.

          1. Snark

            I don’t actually think you did. I think you meant that a woman should base her childcare and maternity decisions on the basis of whether someone else might want accomodations she has no need for, rather than her own and her baby’s needs. And I think you’re attempting to backpedal real hard from that, which is a better look, but not by much.

            I’ll keep feeling superior in the face of zero evidence to the contrary. This was a bad comment and you should feel bad about having a opinion.

      3. Sasha B

        Oh, man, this comment is just one big smorgasbord of HELL TO THE NO. Do you realize you’re saying that it’s this woman’s fault that other employees won’t get benefits they deserve just for…being human? This kind of thinking is so ignominious and sexist. It reminds me of something my wife told me once: she never says that women are “dragging other women down” for doing something stereotypically feminine or even un-feminist. Doing that would be, oh what’s the word? Right, sexist. Don’t be sexist: it’s a good rule of thumb for life and for AAM.

      4. Legal Beagle

        Would you say that a childfree woman is screwing future moms by choosing not to have a baby at all? Your logic is bad.

      5. Fuzzyfuzz

        I read Anon for this as saying that–judging the company based on the response of the OP–the company would be unlikely to go out of their way for newly parenting employees and would be stingy in the future due to feeling ‘burned’ (not justifiable to feel that way, but they may anyway). The onus is on the company, not the employee. But maybe I’m being too generous.

        1. CMart

          That’s how I read it too–that this sounds like the kind of workplace that will hold a grudge against any future employee who might have a child because their generosity the one time wasn’t acknowledged in the “proper” way.

          I don’t agree it’s the current employee’s fault, but I can certainly see the OP/company uncharitably framing it that way as time has gone on and resentment as festered.

            1. CMart

              I didn’t mean to say that’s how I personally am viewing the OP and their employer, though I think that’s what I ended up saying. What I meant was “I read Anon For This as saying blah blah blah about this workplace situation.”

              Which is apparently what they meant. Which is an ungenerous reading of the situation, but not what they personally believe about parental leave or the new mother employee.

        2. Mom of teens (not a teen mom)

          Anything that ends with “…but she did screw future moms” as a response to said employee not taking advantage of possible benefits is a textbook example of putting the onus on the employee.

        3. Forrest

          Except she placed it on the employee – “she screwed over future moms.”

          I can’t see how you could argue that she didn’t place the blame on the employee.

      6. Jessie the First (or second)

        ANon for this, your train of thought makes zero sense.

        If the company is angry that they went out of their way to arrange extra benefits to someone and it turned out to be something the employee never asked for and does not want and so the company decides never to allow extended leave and flexible scheduling and a private pumping room to anyone ever again, then the company is headed up by idiots. The company being headed up by idiots is not the fault of an employee.

        Also, FWIW, saying they “put themselves out” makes no sense either. What exactly is the company “out” here?

      7. TootsNYC

        If this is indeed true–that the company might decide never to offer that very generous of an leave again–the person who screwed over future parents is the LW, not the employee who never asked for these accommodations.

      8. Forrest

        Sooooo the employee should have taken them regardless if she wants them or not because of…feminism or something?

        Not following your logic here. Two parties arranged things for someone who never asked for them or indicated she wanted them and yet it’s her fault if the company never offers these benefits again?

      9. Gingerblue

        Sure, it’s remotely possible that they’ll feel burned and refuse to accomodate future requests for similar accomodations. Anything is possible. That wouldn’t be the emplyee “screwing future moms”; that would be the company throwing a tantrum, and that’s not the employee’s job to manage. In any case, there’s zero evidence to back up your claim that they would absolutely do such a thing.

  21. Trout 'Waver

    Let’s say a newborn or mother has a medical issue that makes them unable to breastfeed. Do you think an already harried employee would rather discuss that medical issue with their boss or give a blase blanket statement that they never intended to breastfeed?

    1. Jessie the First (or second)

      Yup. My youngest could not eat when he was born and he had a g-tube placed surgically. There was no breastfeeding, there could be no breastfeeding. And because of the massive time constraints of caring for a medically fragile infant, there was no pumping.

      I’d have blown the f up at my boss if she started shaming me about not breastfeeding.

      1. Justme, The OG

        I literally kicked a lactation consultant out of my hospital room after my kid was born. I would have done the same to any boss in that situation.

    2. I'll come up with a clever name later.

      My son had a physical impairment that made nursing painful for him and I had many a mommy-shamer try to make feel guilty for using formula. I would have been over the moon furious if someone at work had decided to put their two cents in.

    3. Sylvan

      Yeah, hi, I was that baby.

      The online mommy wars weren’t happening yet, but my mom, perfectionist and very loving parent that she is, still felt guilty. It wasn’t helpful.

    4. RUKiddingMe

      It should never have been a topic for discussion unless the employee asked about a place for pumping.

  22. Kaitlyn

    OP, I’d suggest taking this energy and putting into policy change for your workplace before you leave. Work with HR and upper management to codify and protect the options that you gave this employee, and help create a culture where women get to choose how to handle their maternity leave – that they’re not forced to come back to work before they want to, that they’re not forced to take leave, that there are pumping options, that there are flex-time options for pre- and postnatal appointments, etc. It may have disappointed you that this particular employee didn’t want these benefits, but that’s no reason not to have a deeper conversation about how your company can work with parents in a respectful and effective way.

    1. Jessica

      100% this. You and your employee would both have been better off if these policies and accommodations were already standard and in place.

    2. phira

      This this this this!

      These are all benefits and protections that all expectant parents need. This shouldn’t be something you have to push for for individual employees when they’re having children. Push to make these benefits part of the job benefits.

      For example, I’m expecting this summer. The nature of my job (adjunct) is a bit strange, and I’ll be able to work just one or two nights a week when I return this fall, so that we don’t have to get outside childcare. I won’t have time to pump at work. But you’d better believe I’m going to ask where the pumping room is, because my job had better have one!! Just because I’m not pumping at work doesn’t mean no one is.

      And just because YOUR employee isn’t pumping doesn’t mean you’ll never again have someone who will. Stop making this about your employee being ungrateful, and make this about your employer being a good one for working parents.

    3. einahpets

      Also, consider making the policies open to both parents and/or adoptive parents — my husband truly valued the time he was given to help/bond with our babies in those early weeks (and I truly appreciated the help). I have male friends that were not given more than a few days from their companies.

      Even now, my husband is the one to do most of our girls’ doctor appointments / sick days because his company is better about sick leave for dependents.

  23. Snarkus Aurelius

    This letter really hit a nerve with me because I tried and failed miserably to breastfeed.

    OP, let me explain. From day one, the hospital where I gave birth, the nurses who ran the breastfeeding class, the pediatrician who visited me after I gave birth, and every nurse and lactation consultant I ever encountered let me know that they expected me to breastfeed successfully and I had no other option. I kept trying and failing and they wouldn’t leave me alone. It got to the point my son had zero nourishment from me and they continued strongly implying that formula wasn’t an option and everything was going to be okay. It wasn’t. My son was starving. Literally.

    After that, all of those individuals were banned from contacting me when we went on formula. (Thanks, regular obgyn!)

    Why am I sharing this? Because you don’t know why this woman didn’t want to breastfeed or take more time off. Maybe she had a mastectomy and has no breast tissue. Maybe she needed to go back to work sooner or else she’d go stir crazy. You don’t know and you don’t need to know.

    My point is that although workplaces have come a long way in accommodating pregnant women with more choices, that’s all they are: choices. The freedom to choose to meet your needs whatever they are.

    The talking to you got was appropriate. Now drop it.

    1. Murphy

      I’ve heard similar stories. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I’m sorry that it happens to other women as well.

    2. Tin Cormorant

      I switched to formula the day I got back from the hospital, because being away from all those nurses finally let me think clearly about what worked and what I wanted. My daughter’s weight bounced back so fast that the pediatrician joked about me feeding her rocket fuel. Breastfeeding is not the best option for everyone but society at large has decided it is so.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Way back in the dark ages of 1987 they gave me formula to take home with my son. I am grateful every day I did the Mommy thing before everyone just flat lost their shit over breast vs bottle. I did try to nurse but Son was having no part of it. Thank all the gods I don’t believe in they’d sent that formula with him. At least I had something right there to feed him. I never looked back

    3. AnotherAlison

      I remember reading a story in the news about a mom whose milk didn’t come in and she didn’t supplement with formula and the baby didn’t survive. I don’t remember the whole context.

      My oldest son wouldn’t latch on. We eventually worked things out with some technological intervention, but I really did not find this to be anything more than a way to feed him. It was not a magical experience. His brother had jaundice and fell asleep when he ate, so I had to feed him basically every 5 minutes the first few days. Again, not so magical. Also not magical once I had to go back to work and pump, and milk production slowed. Both kids got 4 months thanks to external pressure, but I’m not sure it was the best way for us.

      1. Kuododi

        Actually the story about the mother who couldn’t nurse and the baby who didn’t survive was a plotline in an older episode of Law and Order (the original). I’m not aware if the episode was a “ripped from the headlines” story or not. Hope this helps!!!!

        1. Observer

          Oh, it’s actually happened in real life. In one case, this was a first time single mother who was on medicaid. For some reason these was a mess up and the baby’s temp medicaid card was not issued, and the doctor’s office (clinic?) wouldn’t see the kid without the card. The social worker apparently didn’t consider getting the card a high priority so mom was waiting on the baby’s regular card to come through. I don’t know where Mom’s family were in this whole mess, but Dad’s family never had anything to do with Mom or Baby.

          So, new Mom is trying to nurse baby because that’s what Mom’s are supposed to do. But she didn’t realize that Baby wasn’t getting enough food, and there was no one to tip her off. But at about 6 weeks or so, the baby’s condition took a nose-dive and Mom called an ambulance. The baby died in the ambulance if I recall correctly.

          Suddenly Dad’s parents were all over the news talking about how terrible Mom was. And all sorts of self-righteous people were screaming that she MUST have been terribly neglectful because OF COURSE it must have been OBVIOUS to ANYONE that the kid was starving. Except, if often isn’t – even to an experienced parent, much less a first time mom.

          1. KX

            My baby didn’t die, and he was the smilingest baby you ever saw and he was sleeping through the night, but I was breastfeeding and at seven months he was not growing and we were going to the doctor and we were getting tests and genetic counseling and all kinds of things to try to figure it out. A nurse we had never seen before at a cystic fibrosis appointment said, this skinny baby needs food! Have you given him a bottle?

            We had not.

            We gave him the bottle. He gained weight, and then could sit and then could crawl and walked at 1 year old and that was that. Baby was hungry. That’s all! But how many nurses and doctors did we have to see for one of them to say that?

            1. Observer

              Oh, wow! That’s terrible. Not that the bottle helped, but that it took so long to pick this up. It just blows me away that no one seems to have looked at his weight chart.

              I have several kids, but with #4, I didn’t realize that the kid wasn’t getting enough to eat. But, I had really good access to care and my pediatrician gave one look at Kiddo and said “this kid needs a bottle”. Which I gave, against the advice the lactation consultant. It worked out well – I was able to get my milk supply up and go back exclusive nursing in few weeks (really less, than a month.)

        2. AnotherAlison

          I don’t watch Law & Order, so maybe it was “ripped from the headlines”. I didn’t want to look it up since I already seem to get a lot of children-in-harms-way stories in my newsfeeds.

      2. Guacamole Bob

        Sometimes I think about the fact that many cultures have traditions where babies aren’t named/welcomed into the religion/etc. until they’re several days old. I have to believe it’s because so many babies died in their first few days of life, and that feeding problems were (and probably still are in some places) a big part of that. Wet nurses were a thing at least partially because sometimes a woman’s milk didn’t come in, or not well enough.

        Yes, breastfeeding is great and studies show breastmilk has benefits, blah blah blah. But our culture has lost touch with the fact that formula is literally life-saving. It’s not like the choice is always between an easy experience breastfeeding with plenty of milk or formula feeding.

        1. soon 2 be former fed

          Wet nurses were common during slavery. Not always for medical necessity reasons either. The massa’s wife couldn’t be bothered.

    4. Lynn Whitehat

      Sounds familiar. Breastfeeding was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life, and that is saying something. Unmedicated childbirth didn’t come close. And the nurses and lactation consultants kept insisting I was lying and there was no such thing as pain when breastfeeding. I still hate them.

      When I went back to work, I had a bunch of Nosy Nellies who were Extremely Concerned about facilitating a good pumping schedule, because Breastfeeding Is The Most Important Thing In the World. I told them all to drop it, and something in my eyes must have told them I wasn’t kidding, because they did. If anyone, *especially* my boss, had kept pushing, oh yeah, I would have gone directly to HR with it. Overstep much?

      1. Salamander

        I’m so sorry that you went through this. I hate that women’s bodies and their decisions seem to be viewed as community property or something during pregnancy and after childbirth, and that so many people feel free to insistently spew their opinions onto new mothers.

    5. Jennifer Thneed

      My aunt was already an MD when she had kids, so she had access to all the information and the education to comprehend it. She told me that when my cousin was born, she couldn’t nurse very well. (She likes to say she wasn’t a good cow, and neither were my grandmother or my other aunt.) My aunt told me my cousin would nurse (breastfeed), fill up, puke it all up, and then get re-fed with a formula bottle.

    6. Mom of teens (not a teen mom)

      I’m sorry you had so much judgement from medical professionals. When I was in labor with my oldest, I responded to the question about feeding by honestly telling the L&D nurse that we planned to bottle feed from the start (partly due to my job as a receptionist with limited breaks- this was before any mandated breastfeeding support in the workplace- and partly due to my concern that stress would cause me to have letdown/supply issues because that’s just how my body works). The nurse informed me that the stress/supply issue was a myth, and that I needed to at least try to nurse. I said I may try briefly in the hospital, but would be formula feeding as soon as I was released because I needed to be weaned when I returned to work at 6 postpartum (my short term disability only covered 6 weeks and I couldn’t afford leave without pay under FMLA at that time). After not being able to produce anything to feed my baby for the two days I was in the hospital (they would periodically give me a syringe and a bit of formula to keep her from screaming, but no bottle), a nurse took pity on me and asked if I would maybe consider bottle feeding. Come to find out that, the L&D nurse put on my chart that I was dedicated to learning to nurse, so everything thought they were supporting me by refusing to bring a bottle.

      My boss, on the other hand, had no interest whatsoever in knowing how I was feeding my baby or what my childcare plans were once I returned. He just wanted to know that my work was getting done.

      1. Salamander

        I am so sorry that you went through this. I hate it when people who are supposed to be medical providers will not leave their agendas at home and just help parents get their kids fed.

      2. RUKiddingMe

        “Come to find out that, the L&D nurse put on my chart that I was dedicated to learning to nurse, ”

        This is criminal, and actually should be.

  24. Cheeky

    This letter blows my mind. OP, what you worked to put in place is good in the sense that it helps women who would like to stay home more, who want to be able to pump, etc., but it really feels like you projected a lot onto your employee and crossed a lot of boundaries that, frankly, smack of judgment against your employee. What I’m reading here makes me think you were doing this more to make yourself look and feel good and altruistic than to meet your employee’s needs. Really examine your motivations behind all of this.

  25. anna green

    Oh sweetie, I totally get where you are coming from. As someone who is a working mom to 2 kids and pumped for many months in the office, I would totally appreciate your plan here and you seem to be coming from a good place.

    However, this “Given the small size of the company and low turnover and my few years left before retirement, I am not likely to have a pregnant employee again.” Kind of seems like it was a little bit more about you than her. I get that you had such a rough time that you were just waiting until you could help someone in that same place and do it right for her! And that’s a kind feeling. But it was more about you feeling good about how much you could provide for her than about what she wanted. Apologize and move on.

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      Yeah, I don’t think she will have a pregnant employee again. Because anyone who is thinking of getting pregnant has observed the hovering and the pushing and the boundary-crossing, and started applying for jobs elsewhere.

  26. JM

    I was cringing all the way through this entire letter, but at “I reminded her several times about the flexible schedule and let her know breastfeeding and pumping was still possible” especially. My jaw dropped!!

    I think some of the comments are being a little too forgiving with “you meant well and I’d love what you did, but…” You meant well, maybe, but seemingly only as long as her form of parenting met with your approval. You overstepped, and some of your comments were inappropriate. You did not ask her what she wanted, and you made it clear that you were judging her choices. Any coworker pushing someone to breastfeed/pump is inappropriate, but especially when you are her boss. Her choices about how she and her spouse are choosing to handle this new child is none of your business.

    You need to not just apologize for apologies’ sake, but actually realize that you were in the wrong here and carefully consider how you are judging other women.

    1. Summer

      Agreed. A boss pressuring their employee into breastfeeding and being judgmental about their choice not do…this rings several alarm bells, OP. Let’s keep those boundaries.

    2. PB

      Same. If my boss came by my desk to tell me that I could still start breast feeding, or leaving pamphlets about breast pumps on my desk, I would go to HR, too.

  27. Creag an Tuire

    Oh dear.

    OP, if you’re wondering why your report seems so upset by your good intentions, it’s because constantly asking “Are you sure you don’t want to use your time? Don’t you want to stay home longer?” really smacks of How-dare-you-not-subordinate-your-career-to-your-child mom-shaming. That’s not how you meant it, but that’s what she’s hearing. Mrs. Tuire had to deal with that crap after our second child was born, and it was grating. (Ickier on their part since unlike OP they weren’t offering extra PTO to go with their free advice.)

    Of course, nobody ever asked me if I needed more time or expressed “surprise” that I came back to work right away. (Though the office secretary did offer to run interference for me if I needed a mid-day nap during my sleep-deprived-parent phase.)

    1. Salamander

      Yeah. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about this letter, but it does feel like shaming about not subordinating her career to her child. I’m sorry that Mrs. Tuire had to deal with that.

  28. CityMouse

    I really like this response. I have had coworkers in my organization be out for 6 months and 2 months when they had babies. Both are great moms, they just had different situations and resources. Everyone is different.

    I can really see the breastfeeding thing really crossing a line with the coworker. Women who don’t breastfeed tend to get lectured a lot, there was even this horrifying article in the Washington post from a mom who got scolded for not breastfeeding when she had survived breast cancer and a double masectomy (people still pushed her after finding out that fact). Those kinds of comments and pushing at work were wholly inappropriate.

    It is like grabbing a blind person’s arm without asking to guide them. You might mean well, but you are putting your perception of the situation over their.ability to make a choice. It is important to let other people dictate what they want rather than steam rolling what you think they want.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius

      I remember that article! The nurse or lactation consultant said something about breast tissue being in the armpit sometimes so the writer should try massaging there!

      The author said, “Uh if there’s breast tissue anywhere in my body, that means there was a huge mistake in my double mastectomy and I could get cancer.”

  29. Jessie the First (or second)

    I’m really bothered that you “went to bat” to arrange accommodations *without even asking your employee if she wanted them.*

    It is not okay to decide you know how someone should live her/his life and make job decisions for that person based on how you want them to arrange their personal life.

    That’s icky.

    I get that you want parents** to feel supported. And that’s great. But it’s not supportive to change their workplace without asking them first.

    ** (PARENTS, not just moms, right? I mean, you’d be willing to push for flexibility for a new dad if he wanted it, right?)

    1. hbc

      Thank you. I’m super tired of men being employees first and women being mothers first–it’s unfair in all directions.

      OP should be glad that the employee’s *family* has the flexibility they need. It’s actually a great situation that they have more options than they need/want.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Also, what about parents who adopt? Would they get the same considerations or is it just women who give birth?

    3. Edina Monsoon

      Exactly! As soon as I announced I was pregnant at work I was taken off first aid duty (which I really liked doing) prevented from collecting office supplies like paper when the copier ran out and scolded for using the stairs instead of the lift. It made me feel like I was an incubator and not a person.
      Recently I met up with some other “mum” friends and I was surprised that all three of them were pleased to be back at work after their maternity leave, as far as I’m concerned I never wanted to go to work before I was pregnant so the idea that someone would want to go to work baffled me, but we’re all different!

    4. LiveAndLetDie

      Yeah, when I hear “went to bat” it sounds like someone’s putting themselves on the line to back someone up on something that’s unpopular, which this may very well have been, but the expecting employee had NO IDEA about it. It worked out here and OP was able to get the benefits package expanded for this employee, but in a more unyielding work environment this overstepping of bounds “on her behalf” could have reflected poorly on the employee and she wouldn’t have even known.

  30. Snubble

    OP, I think you’re doing, a little bit, the same thing as mums who want to arrange their daughters weddings, to be perfect, the way their own weddings weren’t perfect (often, because their own mothers were running the show). That is, I don’t think you’re being malicious at all, but I do think you’re thinking of this employee’s new motherhood as a way to make up for the difficulties of your own. Like it’s a way to put things right. You want to do better for her than was done for you.

    It’s a good impulse to want her to have the options you didn’t have. You’ve gone out of your way to give her things – ways to make her life easier, ways to let her combine motherhood and work the way you wanted to. And it hurts, because she doesn’t want to do it that way. So it’s like you’ve been wrong twice – once when you had to give up work, and again when your employee rejected all the things you tried to give her. And you’re afraid you might never get the chance again to be the ideal boss to a young mum who reminds you of yourself.

    It hurts, but she is not bottle feeding at you. She didn’t come back at eight weeks to make you feel bad. She’s just living her life, and from her perspective, her boss is getting over-invested in her parenting choices and making her feel judged and harrassed. You need to take a step back, because this isn’t your chance to make things right. Your employee isn’t re-running your life. She has her own life, and it’s not shaped the same as yours. You still did a good thing – you established a precedent in your company for new parents to have flexibility and accomodations – but you’re going to have to be content with that much.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That is a most excellent comparison and makes a whole lot of sense. “This is what I had/would have wanted, so I expect you to want it too,” with an undertone of, “… and I don’t care that you hate the color red or you would prefer a DJ to a brass band, this is how we will do things.” That can be really damaging to a parental relationship (I speak from experience!) and it can cause a professional relationship to deteriorate completely.

    2. EddieSherbert

      Oh my gosh, currently wedding planning and ready to send this comment to my and SO’s parents… trust me, pushing your wants onto someone else and being offended when it’s not what they want only leads to collective and pointless misery!

      1. RVA Cat

        This. It also reminds me of how parents try to push a child into a sport or a career that was their dream. Other people’s lives are not your do-over.

        1. mrs__peel

          “Other people’s lives are not your do-over.”

          This needs to be embroidered on throw pillows… :)

  31. Katie

    In particular, I think looking into whether pumps are covered by insurance, telling her she could still breastfeed, and leaving her printouts crosses the line. I think having all the options of time off, pumping room, and flexible schedule is great, and I would have loved to have them all when I had my children, but… they have to be options, not expectations.

    If you advocated for these things and gave her a printout saying “After discussions with me, the company is offering you x, y, and z, should you choose to take advantage of them. I’m happy to help set up any options that work for you, so feel free to discuss options with me before or after birth, whenever needed.” Then back off. She can decide how long she wants off, if she wants a different schedule, and if she wants to breastfeed. You can be pleased or disappointed privately the same as you might be for anyone you know, but those opinions don’t belong at work.

    1. Lindsay Gee

      yeah…i probably would have had a stern convo with her upon finding pamphlets on my desk for pumps…that is just NOT her business. And it wasn’t even a conversation! just a fly-by “I’m going to leave these here for her to find later! I’m such a good boss” *pats self on back*

  32. Bea

    Let’s not forget how postpartum depression is very real. A new mom needs all the support possible but you have to give them room, their decisions are their own every step of the way.

    My uncle was a stay at home dad when we were kids. My mom was a stay at home mom. However many parents do not want that even if they can afford to. I would curl up and die without working, despite having a child to care for, I crave outside duties or my depression sets in deep.

    Breastfeeding is a choice. It’s upsetting you went so beyond thoughtful into giving her the dream you never had then being upset that she didn’t want it! I would have went to HR too. You bulldozed boundaries that women have been fighting for for centuries.

  33. Frizz

    To me it sounds like the LW had this planned before even knowing one of her employees was pregnant. Similar to planning a legacy, or ‘if I had an employee returning back to work, I would do these things to accommodate.’ This is why I think it stings a little more and why it doesn’t seem to cater specifically to the staff member. It is remarkably kind, but it’s not specific to the needs of the employee, and that’s what matters more. Who knows, havibg done this may pay off for someone who wants to pump in private, or who would like their leave negotiated. That pay off might be years down the track, but it would still be blessing if that’s what someone wanted.

  34. Anonyna

    Oh my god, the internal screaming I did reading this. LW, your heart was in the right place but damn you forced your employee to talk to you about things she absolutely 100% on no planet would have to talk to you about. I’m in Canada and have a year of mat leave but came back after 9 months because I’m a better mother when I work. Trust me, my child is adored by his parents beyond all description. And breastfeeding. Sweet baby Jesus if my boss demanded I explain why I wasn’t pumping upon my return to work he would have had a sobbing mess to deal with. My kid and I were terrible at breastfeeding. He couldn’t latch because he was early, I wasn’t producing, it just was shitty all around for everyone involved. The crippling guilt from my failed breastfeeding attempt followed me the first two years of my child’s life. And even if I just decided not to nurse because I just plain didn’t want to, that’s my business and never is it my employer’s. Your letter comes across as judgemental and in case you weren’t aware, mothers (especially new ones) get plenty of opportunities to be judged. Don’t add to it.

  35. HS Teacher

    It happens to me when people get offended on my behalf. I belong to a half dozen or so minority groups, and I hate when well-meaning friends get offended about something for me.

  36. Ellie

    I think your employee sounds fantastic. There is such enormous pressure on women to breastfeed these days, it takes real guts to admit that you can’t or don’t want to do it. Formula isn’t poison, pumping is extremely hard work, and it’s just wonderful to hear about a partner who’s willing to take on the majority of the childcare. You should be happy for her. But please don’t feel like you wasted your time – you’ve made it easier on the next pregnant employee whenever that will be, and those policies should have been in place whether people use them or not anyway.

  37. Ruth's Mom

    Long time reader, but only my second time posting because I disagree so strongly with half of Alison’s feedback.

    OP: you were spot on to advocate for these accommodations and benefits, even without first getting input from your team member. Until your child is born it is really impossible to know what accommodations you will need. Thank goodness it sounds like baby and mom are healthy and well, but had there been an unforeseen life threatening birth complication the parental leave benefits you helped your company develop could have made the difference between keeping or losing a valued employee (or at the very least, forcing your employee to make heart wrenching choices about going back to work or staying with a critically ill infant in the NICU). Even having dedicated pumping space could be necessary for a mother who isn’t breastfeeding (some women have a really hard time drying up their supply and occasionally pumping just a little -not enough to trigger additional production- is necessary to prevent mastitis).

    To be clear: you did a GREAT THING by putting these pieces together and helping make the culture of your organization as mother friendly as possible. You were right to do it without asking your staff member if she wanted you to.

    However, you should have framed it with your company as, “I don’t know what staff member will want or need in terms of accommodation. And what she wants or needs is likely to be influenced by lots of variables no one has control over. Therefore, we should use this as an opportunity to get our parental leave and benefits policy ducks in a row now, so we are prepared for what she might need, we are clear and unified in our support and what we can offer, and so that we set a precedent that helps us attract and retain future high quality employees.”

    Where you screwed up, and where I agree with Alison, is that once it became clear your staff member didn’t need or want these things you kept pushing. That was not ok. Offer a humble apology and respect her to make the choices that are right for her.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      Agreed. It is great to have these options in place (even if from my UK-centric pov they’re a lot less than I’d expect, I realise it’s a lot where OP is) and completely agree that they should have been put in place in case the employee wanted them – but without the expectation that they would.

      Even if they said before the birth “I’m not intending to use these options.” – as long as it’s presented as OPTIONS it’s a good thing to have in place – she could change her mind, and it’s easier not to use something that’s there than try to set it up from scratch at short notice.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      A great thing would be to push for, and get formal approval for, paid leave and the option for flexible scheduling and a designated pumping space, for any and all new parents.

      It’s not so helpful to do it randomly for a single employee without asking, which is what happened and why it’s a big deal that she didn’t ask first.

      Again – getting the company to institute a longer paid leave program would be great. No need to wait for a particular employee’s approval to go pushing for family-friendly policies. Unfortunately, that’s a different scenario than what OP did. Aside from the pumping room, it sounds as if all the extra leave (ability to use vacation on top of paid leave) and the flexible scheduling was a carve-out for the specific employee and NOT a new and overall policy for everyone.

    3. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

      If the OP used the specific employee’s name to get the specific accommodations, and gave the impression (or said) that employee X wanted the accommodations, she was in the wrong. Imma thinking from the higher up reprimand the OP received, that is what happened.

      If the OP said “we need a maternity policy and here is what I think the maternity policy should be”, fine, but otherwise it is wrong to tell higher ups that Employee X needs accommodations without ever discussing it with Employee X.

      Insert any other situation that might need accommodation and see how that sounds. You wouldn’t presume the accommodations a disabled employee would need without talking to them would you? I would be so angry, so angry if I were Employee X.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        If the OP used the specific employee’s name to get the specific accommodations, and gave the impression (or said) that employee X wanted the accommodations, she was in the wrong. Imma thinking from the higher up reprimand the OP received, that is what happened.

        Even if the OP didn’t claim the specific employee wanted these accommodations, I think a reprimand would have been in order for pushing them after they were declined.

        1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

          Oh yeah agreed to that, but Ruth’s Mom’s post was about getting the accommodations without Employee X’s input. I find that so well, “infantalizing” and “paternalistic” are the only two words that come to mind and they are weird to use in this context. But that is what I mean. :D

          1. TootsNYC

            You are misconstruing Ruth’s Mom’s post. Please don’t overlook this very powerful part of it–the important framing of these policies as for the company’s benefit, and this particular employee’s pregnancy as simply the catalyst for them to create lasting policies for any future employees.

            Therefore, we should use this as an opportunity to get our parental leave and benefits policy ducks in a row now, so we are prepared for what she might need, we are clear and unified in our support and what we can offer, and so that we set a precedent that helps us attract and retain future high quality employees.”

            1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

              I see your point, I did.

              I am team codified benefits, as many as you can get, so that then individuals can have the flexibility that they need for their own choices.

  38. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    Wow. I know there are parents out there that want the benefits you just described. For me? I went back to work the *second* I was medically cleared to do so. I hate not working. I like flexibility – being able to take my kids to doctor’s appointments, etc – but I wouldn’t want a permanently shorter schedule which is what I think you were getting at. My kids are teens now, but I still remember the pressure (from seemingly everywhere) to breastfeed. Some people just do.not.want.to. And that’s there choice. FED is best. As long as the baby is fed, that’s all that matters.

    I really don’t know that I’d be able to continue to work for someone that had gone to such lengths to mom-shame me (and that is what you were doing with pushing the breastfeeding – and being “disappointed” that she didn’t want to new-mom the way you want her to new-mom).

  39. hbc

    OP, I know this has got to sting. I think you were pretty invested in being the kind of boss you wished you had, and providing your employee with the kind of work experience you wished you had access to. Unfortunately, you failed to see that she didn’t want the kind of work experience that you wanted to have, and because you invested so much of yourself in this, it feels like a personal affront when it most definitely isn’t.

    If this is the one area where you lose perspective and project on others, you can do your best to fix this situation and move on. But maybe consider if this is a more common pattern for you and try to retrain yourself before you get upset at the employee with crooked teeth who won’t get free braces or the person who turns down the office swag.

  40. CTT

    “and told me she doesn’t feel bad for choosing to work when she could afford to stay home”

    This especially stood out to me since I’ve recently been discussing it with friends. Some people genuinely would rather work than not, even if they have the option not to! If I had a spouse whose job could support us on its own, I would still work because I prefer that over the work that comes with being home full time. Think of it this way: you have an employee who really loves her job and wants to be there. That’s a great thing for your company!

    1. Guacamole Bob

      It’s also not nearly as simple as “can afford to stay home”. What’s the opportunity cost of staying home? What does it do to your long-term career prospects, and your financial independence? We hear from a lot of former SAHMs on this site who have trouble re-entering the workforce. Lots of women have watched their mothers and other women in their lives struggle career-wise and financially after a divorce and vowed never to run their life that way.

      And some people are miserable as SAHMs. I know a few women who have thrived at home with their kids, but I also know some who ended up pretty miserable.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        What’s the opportunity cost of staying home?

        Exactly. Even if you bring home exactly $0 after paying for daycare, you are still gaining something by working. (Which doesn’t mean staying home is a bad thing. It just means, if your decision is based on finances, make sure you’re including all the finances, and not just take-home pay this week.)

      2. AnotherAlison

        How does the OP even know this? The employee’s husband is self-employed. So is mine. I once ran the Obamacare numbers on what our insurance would cost for a family of four at our income and it was like $26,000. (Maybe it would be lower on single income, but I don’t have that number.) Plus, self-employment income can fluctuate. I find it hard to believe the OP knows the specific details of the family’s finances and goals.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      This was just a plot point on a Big Bang Theory episode. And, yeah, I am aware of all the ways that show is problematic, but I think it handled this well with Howard & Bernadette.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I don’t even watch the show any more, but I remember when Howard and Bernadette were deciding whether to ever have children, and they decided that Howard would be the one to stay home with them. What ever happened to that?

        1. Triplestep

          They basically acted like that conversation never happened and had an episode where Howard and Bernadette disagreed over which one should go back to work (they both wanted to) and then they disagreed over which one should stay home (they both wanted to.) Yeah. I was really disappointed since the question had clearly been figured out years earlier.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago

          Howard initially suggested that he stay home with the kids and Bernadette was like “well, what if I want to” and he asked if she did and she wasn’t sure. Basically, they hit on the whole ‘moms feel like they’re supposed to want to stay home’ thing and ultimately decided that neither of them was cut out to be a stay at home parent.

    3. Bea

      I have worked since I graduated high school, I don’t even enjoy a week long vacation, a four day weekend and I’m ready to jump back into work.

      I’ve fought to teach my nieces it’s up to them but a career is possible and it’s all up to them.

      Everyone loves talking to me about wanting to win the lotto and retire, go on jet setting trips and sleeping on beaches in the Caribbean. My response is that if I’m suddenly wealthy, I’m just helping others along while still working because surprise I love my job. I don’t just work to pay bills. I also resent the people who quip that “they have a life!” and therefore will only ever work 40hrs and demand weeks upon weeks of PTO. Like my enjoyment in business development is some lie. If it weren’t for us work driven folks who’s going to pay for others to have twelve weeks paid time off, bleh. Rage tangent over.

    4. Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental

      It really resonated with me as well, but from a different angle. I’m a newly minted Navy wife, and I’m getting a decent amount of horrified confusion when people ask why I am not moving with him *right this second!!* and quitting my job and becoming a SAHM. Well, for one, his orders right now are unaccompanied. For two, I like having a career. Not working would make me go nutty. When we moved out of state the first time I didn’t work for 2 months and nearly cried from boredom and lack of purpose. For three, we don’t want kids for a variety of reasons. Apparently to them I’m completely lacking the required qualities for any “good” military wife, which is hurtful on top of the just getting my head around military life to begin with.

      I can’t imagine being a parent with all those stresses and then having people forcibly & vocally judge every decision that has *nothing* to do with anyone else but your personal situation & family. I’d probably end up punching someone.

    5. Anonarama

      Also perhaps it is the case that one parent could stay home and it isn’t the mother. I make much more than my husband but have been asked why I work when we can clearly afford to have me at home and every time people are shocked when I inform them that we can’t afford to have me stay at home but we could afford to have my husband stay at home!

  41. neverjaunty

    OP, doing a kindness for other people is a fine thing. But when it becomes about you and what you want – not about the person you’re helping – then it really isn’t a kindness.

    1. Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental

      +1000

      Just like any type of gift-giving – the gift is about the recipient, not the giver.

    2. Cuddles Chatterji

      +1,000

      “God save us from people who mean well.”
      ― Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

  42. Shandon

    Your intentions were no doubt the best. But I can’t quite imagine going to these lengths without even talking to your employee first. It sounds like you based everything on what you’d have wanted when you had kids, just assuming that any mother would naturally want the same. And now you’re still baffled that that’s not the case. But they don’t, and you need to accept that.

    You say she knew about all this before she left, so I do wonder a bit why she never mentioned she didn’t need all that. Did she realize these were accomodations you made because of her or did she just think company policy was changing? Either way, shes not obligated to utilize any of it, especially when it was all done without any input from her.

    Just apologize for making assumptions about her private decisions, and at least some of these things will be there in the future for employees who would like them, so there is always that.

  43. Akcipitrokulo

    If you’re worried it may look bad because you got her special arrangements which were not used, and that you’re being regarded badly for causing unnecessary considerations – please don’t! Situations change; even if she had wanted the arrangements and then changed her mind, that’s still completely fine.

    I got impression it was “I went to bat for her, and now my boss is annoyed that they put work into something that wasn’t used.” If your boss did feel like that, they’re wrong. (If they are annoyed that they put work into something that was never required in first place, that’s slightly different.)

    But it’s perfectly OK to do something that turns out to be unneeded.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd

      I read it as her boss and HR being less than happy that she put all these provisions in place absent any kind of input from the person they were meant for- which isn’t wrong. I can definitely understand being miffed if I were in the same position “wait, you mean we did all this and you actually never even asked in the first place if the employee needed/wanted these accommodations?!”
      To be clear, I’m am totally on board with supporting new parents at work, but the LW focused her efforts on a specific person, and her efforts would have likely been better received had they been applied to general company policy.

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        Maybe – but if she’d said “we should have this in case employee wants them” then it’s good I think.

  44. Hey-eh

    Being Canadian it is FASCINATING to read stories like this and the comments. Going back to work after 4… 6.. 8 weeks? That is unheard of here. My boss’s daughter-in-law got tired of mat leave and went back after 4 months and we were all SHOCKED. She had trouble finding a daycare that would take a baby that young since most infant rooms start at 12 months since our mat leave policy is 1 year. And now you can take up to 18 months if that’s something you choose.

    1. Bend & Snap

      I took the max leave and went back at 12 weeks, and was a hot mess. And I left the baby with my MOTHER so it wasn’t even like there was daycare.

      It just felt wrong (to ME) to go back that soon. But everyone is different.

    2. ThatGirl

      I think it is wonderful to have the *option* to take 3, 6, or even 12 months off.

      But it should only ever been an option, and not mandatory — why is it so shocking that a woman would be tired of spending all day every day with a crying baby? Why is it shocking that a woman would want to go back to work, to seeing adults and doing a job she presumably enjoys or gets something out of?

      Insisting that there is one-size-fits-all for new parents is super patronizing, in my opinion.

      (Note I am not a parent but I see SO much pressure on new parents to do things Exactly as Society Has Dictated and that just… sucks.)

      1. CTT

        Yeah, something doesn’t sit well with me about not being able to find daycare for kids under 12 months. It does seem like a big pressure to really love staying home with your kid Or Else.

        1. I will kill people with this cricket bat

          For the record, as another Canadian here, staying home is neither mandatory or fully the responsibility of the mum. Dad’s can take up to 35 weeks of that leave as it’s “parental leave” and not maternity leave (maternity leave is 15 weeks, noting the actual physical hell you go through in carrying and delivering a child).

          It’s also, to be fair, a very privileged position to be able to take all 52 weeks (as I was able to do). EI doesn’t cover your full salary (just 55% to a maximum) and not all families can live off that. So it’s not completely unheard of for mother to return to work earlier than the year, especially in service-industry jobs where your income is tied to things like tips.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm

            Teachers will also often go back after 9 or 10 months so that they can start the school year in September. It’s hard to establish yourself as the authority figure if you aren’t there from day one and many kids will resent losing “their” teacher when you come back.

      2. smoke tree

        Yeah, I once had a coworker who really didn’t want to take 12 months off, even though the company would have covered her full salary (this is in Canada), but our boss kept telling her she would really regret it if she didn’t. This letter reminded me of that, although in this case the benefits were standard.

      3. woopness

        There’s a degree to which cultural norms don’t work like that. See for examples European countries that had to mandate (fully paid!!) months of paternal leave before any significant number of fathers would take it up – but after it stopped being an option not to take it, everyone (including the dads who might not have volunteered for it given a ‘free choice’) talked about how much they appreciated it, and how much it changed both families and working culture for the better.

        It caused whole workplace norms to reorganise so as to make it more possible for this to happen and men not to be penalised in their career for it, which had a side effect of making it easier for women to return to the workforce after a break, by making it less of a gendered problem.

        See also: workplaces where taking your vacation time is seen as ‘optional’, and thus there is varying take-up, and the potential to informally pressure people not to make full use of it, or to see those who don’t as more dedicated, worthy of promotion, etc. As compared to places where it’s mandatory to use your vacation and so everyone does, and everyone benefits from not being entered into that particular arms race. (Including, ironically, the company as a whole).

        American culture is built on individual choice and freedom, but there are some limitations to that framework, and I just think it’s worth acknowledging that it’s not universal, and doesn’t necessarily solve every type of problem.

        This is in no way a defence of OP’s pressuring of one of her reports to stick to one narrow pathway of ‘correct’ parenthood – that’s an unacceptable use of direct authority in this context, and does not benefit OP, her employee, her employee’s child, or any future new parents in OP’s organisation – it’s not excusable!

      4. Hey-eh

        I don’t have kids either. We were just shocked because it’s so unheard of. At least, this is the first time any of us had ever heard of someone not taking the full time or splitting the time between two parents. So just to clarify, not shocking as in bad, just shocking as in.. surprising.

        1. ThatGirl

          Then just a gentle suggestion, “shocked” was probably a bad word choice then, it implies a certain…judgment.

          1. Time Out

            Nitpicking people’s word choice is against the commenting rules, sweetie! Just a “gentle” reminder.

            1. ThatGirl

              Oh come on. First off, don’t call me sweetie. Condescension doesn’t help your case.

              Second, I don’t think that’s quite what I was doing — it’s just that “shocked” gave me a whole different vibe than her follow up comment did. If it came off as nitpicking, then I apologize to Hey-eh, but your comment? Is very unhelpful.

    3. Akcipitrokulo

      I went back about 9 months when statutory maternity pay ran out. (UK) which is what a lot of people do.

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        (But a lot have to go back earlier as SMP isn’t 90% of wages, and not all get housing benefit.)

    4. smoke tree

      I wouldn’t say “unheard of” since it depends on how long you can afford to live on half your salary. I know someone who had to go back to work after 12 weeks because she couldn’t afford to stay out any longer.

      1. Tuxedo Cat

        I’ve worked with students who have had children while in college. It’s hard enough for them to find daycare for babies a few months old (forget the age). Their situations were such that having family watch the children was not an option and they didn’t have the money for a nanny.

    5. PNWflowers

      I’m not Canadian, but the thought of going back at 12 weeks- well I’m having kittens. They call it the 4th trimester for a reason, and while this boss went so far over in the line in her pressure to her employee, these accommodations sound amazing. Canada sounds even better :) The US childcare usually starts accepting babies at 6 weeks. I’m not quite sure how moms go back earlier then that, usually you are still (or should be allowed to be) physically recovering. It’s quite unfair that moms go back early because of crappy policies.

    6. Bea

      It’s grossly out of fashion to shame women who DO NOT WANT TO stay home any longer than they want to.

      It’s great they’re allotted six months to a year if they choose to go that route. Women do not need to fall into your antiquated system of staying home to bond and love their children.

      So congrats on not being one of us silly heathen Americans.

      1. Hey-eh

        Just clarifying that we weren’t shaming her, we were just surprised because it’s pretty uncommon from our perspective to not take it, or split it between both parents.

    7. Cheeky

      I can understand it. Being away from work for extended periods of time like that can have major consequences on a woman’s career.

  45. Erin

    Oh gosh, this was kind of hard to read. Yes your heart was very clearly in the right place, but you should have had more of an open communication about it. The breastfeeding in particular made me cringe – you can’t assume someone is going to breastfeed, to the point you create a new room just for her to do it in!

    As someone who chose not to breastfeed herself, I can tell you it is a very personal decision and it hard dealing with potential pressure from people who think you’re Satan’s spawn for not putting the baby on the boob.

    For what it’s worth, this woman may move on to another job and may have another baby at some point and she isn’t likely to meet with the same level of support you were willing to offer. I can see why she’d initially be put off, but I could also see her later in life being like, “Hmm, she really went out of her way for me.”

    Going forward, I’m sure you’re good from this point on and will know what to do next time, should it come up. But I’d give one more piece of advice: Not only are all women different, but pregnant women are very apt to change their minds once the baby comes and reality hits and the hormones go down.

    She may very well have planned on breastfeeding, for instance, and could have told you that, and had you get the room set up, and then she tried it or it wasn’t possible for some reason and she ended up just going with formula. Or, she could have planned for a 12 week leave but found herself crawling up the walls at 8 weeks and itching to get back to work.

    So, even if she told you she wanted a particular perk when she was planning for the baby, the reality might have been different anyway once she returned.

    1. Sam.

      Yeah, it’s the assumptions that I think are really the problem. Because even if OP doesn’t intend to judge how her employee is parenting, she’s a person of authority making assumptions about what someone needs, so it’ll come across like judgment and meddling regardless of intention.

      And toward your larger point – I think it’s worth remembering that not only is every parent different, but each baby is, too. My sister breastfed her first two, but it just didn’t work with the third. She was actually pretty excited about switching to formula – it meant other people could deal with middle-of-the-night feedings! – but there were some uncomfortable moments when people assumed she’d have the same needs as her earlier pregnancies and set her up to justify her altered approach again and again. Hearts in the right place, but it would’ve been better to ask what she needed.

  46. TotesMaGoats

    I guess my question is: what did the employee say after you came back and presented all this really great stuff you’d negotiated for her? Did that conversation even happen or did she get an email from HR with her benefits information.

    I’m assuming a lot but it sounds like a conversation about what the employee wanted didn’t happen. I can totally understand that you wouldn’t want to get her hopes up with benefits that wouldn’t materialize. I really appreciate that. So, I can sort of understand why the conversation didn’t happen first but it seems like somewhere between “yay, benefits” and “i’m having the baby tomorrow, see you in a few weeks” there would be room for that conversation.

  47. Workingonit

    I guess OP was trying to make up for their past experience – but the line at the end that she’s unlikely to have another pregnant employee struck me as odd. OP seems weirdly invested in this and being involved with this pregnant employee’s life to an unhealthy boundary crossing degree. I’m wondering if there’s something else going on besides having to leave her job previously because of pregnancy. I’d recommend the OP examine why she’s so invested in this woman’s pregnancy – and perhaps what happened surrounding her leaving her last position – seems like there’s almost a lot of anxiety involved here to the degree you went to bat for a woman when you hadn’t discussed it with her. Perhaps you re-experiencing anxiety you had previously OP and then furiously working at the wrong thing to try and fix it?

  48. Sammy Mcsamson

    I haven’t seen this mentioned – it wasn’t something I knew about until I started thinking about kids. There a lot of medications that are incompatible with pregnancy and breastfeeding. The medical knowledge about what is/isn’t safe is pretty scarce. I have a very good friend who never planned on breastfeeding because she wanted to get back on an important medication for her as soon as possible.

    That said – I want to be clear that I feel that no one should be judged for their feeding choices. My favorite line in the world while I was breastfeeding is ‘breastfeeding is only cheaper than formula if a woman’s time is worth nothing.’

  49. Aveline

    I think this is a good time to remind people to watch the consent and tea video. Because it’s not just about sex, it’s about life.

    Imagine you baked a chocolate cake for someone’s birthday. The best chocolate cake that ever existed. The one you wished someone would make for you. You spent weeks planning it and days making it. You give it to the person. They don’t want to eat it. You are livid! Why?

    You assumed what you thought was the best was what they would think is the best. You assumed that what you would want made for you is what they would want made for them. You wanted to live out your fantasy of what should have been. You assumed your efforts and your intent mattered so much.

    This isn’t about her. It’s about you. Instead of asking about her choices and getting consent to go to bat for her, you steamrolled in and centered yourself and implemented your fantasy maternity policy. You are still centering yourself in this narrative. Of HER pregnancy and child.

    I don’t know why you did this, I just know that you did. I think you need to apologize for centering yourself, for your actions, and for any discomfort you caused her. Then you need to reflect on why you did this. Or you will do it again in another venue.

    You are waaaay too invested in this. If I were the new mom in this one, I’d be very weirded out by your actions. If a friend told me someone had done this, I’d advise getting another job.

    I say this with kindness OP because we have ALL done this at some point in our lives. It takes a lot of effort and self-reflection to take people on their own terms and to give them what they want, not what we think they should want. Most of us really suck at human empathy and at seeing other people as fully fleshed out humans with legitimate differences in tase and opinion.

    You’ve heard of the golden rule? Discard it. Obey the platinum rule: do unto others as they want you to do unto them. You can’t know what they want if you don’t ask.

    You did some major boundary crossing here. You still are. Pull back into your own territory and examine your own motives and needs. That should make things really clear.

    When you can answer the question “why does this matter so much to me?” you will have clarity.

  50. Storie

    OP, I wish you were at my company to advocate for me when I had my babies. The things you got for this employee are amazing.

    That said, you definitely owe her an apology. For assumptions, for judging, for not honoring her choices. The true meaning of feminism includes supporting women in all of their different choices and paths. Perhaps you’ve made it easier for the next Mom to ask for these accommodation—should she want them, of course!

  51. Lauren K Milligan

    To me, it seems that OP is more upset that her employee didn’t need/want the OP’s support, rather than not wanting/needing the benefits. This sentence is just so inappropriate: “…I am not likely to have a pregnant employee again.”
    The employee’s reaction makes me wonder how the OP acted during the employee’s pregnancy, possibly going over the top with gifts, or referring to is as “our” baby, etc.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Yeah, that part reminded me of my dad. All my major life decisions are actually about him. I might be stretching it, but the OP may want to reflect on whether she is behaving similarly with her own family. I can imagine a scenario where her own daughter/daughter-in-law doesn’t take her up on her babysitting offer or something and being upset about that.

  52. Lady Blerd

    “Because people are different.”

    This is all Allison had to say but I appreciate her explaining to LW where she went wrong. Her heart was in the right place but her assumptions lead her astray.

    We have a very generous parental leave program in Canada yet I know many women who have not taken the full one year leave for many of the reasons stated above like being on a job permanence wait list, hating being home or sharing their leave with their partners. I never assume what their plans will be. And even when it’s the non child bearing partner asking for their 5 weeks leave, I always ask if they will share their partner’s parental leave.

  53. Preggers

    Advocating for your employee is great but you didn’t do that. Instead you tried to push your own personal parenting beliefs on your employee and then got mad at her for mothering how she chooses. In your head you were helping her get the resources you didn’t have, lets face it, this country and most companies are not supportive of working mothers. But the way you went about it was the extreme opposite. Instead of supporting her in what she needed you forced your own parenting beliefs on her. Not to mention the time and resources spent on changing policies and creating a pumping room for someone who never intended to pump.
    Personally I wish you had been my boss. I could have used an advocate but next time listen to what the person needs because everyone is different. For example I tried staying home and I am a horrible grouchy mother when I’m home. I need adult interaction and me time to rejuvenate and be a more effective, nurturing mother.

    1. Aeth

      Agreed. Advocating without input the person you’re advocating for is inherenty not advocacy.

  54. Van Wilder

    I would add: make sure you’re not depriving her of career-advancing projects because you assume she should want to take a step back right now. There’s a reason that there aren’t more women in C-suites.

    1. Reba

      If I were the employee I would be really wary of my boss, watching out for retaliation, and totally without any faith that she is watching out for me or someone that I can trust with my career.

      1. mrs__peel

        Yep, I would be looking to change managers/departments within the company or looking for another job entirely at this point.

  55. Minnie

    I was unable to breastfeed, and I would have been extremely displeased (and uncomfortable) if a boss pushed their agenda on me. It was hard enough dealing with the judgement of others, and I imagine it coming from a superior was a very heavy feeling.

    I hope the OP continues to advocate for moms, but with boundaries in place. Once boundaries are crossed, it’s often hard to get back in good standing.

  56. essEss

    You decided to arrange her life and her schedules without even bothering to check with her first. That is really overstepping boundaries.

    Put yourself into an identical type of situation – It is the same type of thing if your mother-in-law suddenly shows up at your house and informs you that they’ve already talked to your employer to arrange new work hours for you at a time that your MIL has decided is more appropriate for you and she’s decided that from now on you will take the transportation service to work that she’s arranged because it is more environmentally friendly and socially acceptable. And when you say you already have your employment and transportation set up the way you like, your mother-in-law starts vilifying you for not appreciating all the work she did for you to get this all arranged to her liking.

    That’s the exact same thing you just did. You informed her when she should be working and what she should be doing with her child based on your expectations of what is socially responsible in your eyes even though these decisions are ones that would be made by your employee.

  57. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

    I dread to imagine what would have happened if OP’s employee adopted instead of getting pregnant. Or if she chose to be a surrogate. Or anything different from what OP considers a pregnancy.

  58. Cait

    OP, you crossed a major line when you put printouts of pumps on the employees desk (!!!). Her breasts and how she feeds her child are NONE of your business. I’m sure that was a huge red flag to your employee. If you had been a male boss, I can’t imagine the reaction but because your a woman too does NOT make it ok.

    I’m a working mom, I pumped in my office. I get where you’re coming from in theory but I would be super pissed and offended if someone interrupted my day with pumping info at work. So weird.

    But pushing the breastfeeding on a new mom who clearly does not breastfeed so SO SO SO inappropriate. Add in you’re her boss? I’m sure she feels completely berated and defensive at work now. She went to HR, now leave her alone about it and don’t hold it against her.

    You really need to take a giant step back, reframe your mindset and move on.

    1. Alton

      I think this is a good point. Anything involving breasts or reproduction can be very personal, and just because the employee and manager are both women doesn’t mean that the employee will feel comfortable sharing. Some women are comfortable talking openly about these topics, but that shouldn’t be assumed, and it’s still a pretty personal topic for work.

      There are a lot of things about my body that I’m not ashamed of but that I don’t openly discuss with anyone except my doctor and maybe my romantic partners because I’m a very private person. I think breastfeeding would be one of those things.

  59. LilySparrow

    LW, you really answered your own question.

    You don’t understand what she wants and why.

    That’s why you have to ask people — all people — what they want and how you can help.

    Deciding for another adult what they “should” need isn’t helpful and supportive. It’s patronizing.

    Maternity isn’t a disability, but here’s a metaphor related to a recent question: Let’s say you hired a deaf or hearing-impaired employee, and went to great trouble and expense arranging for them to have an ASL interpreter on-site full time. And then when they arrived, it turned out they lip read, or use an implant, or another sign language, and don’t even know ASL.

    Wouldn’t it be outlandish for you to be disappointed and upset with the employee for “wasting” all your effort? Wouldn’t it be wildly inappropriate for you to pressure them to learn ASL, because it’s “not too late”?

    This situation is just as outlandish and inappropriate, for exactly the same reasons. You showed a profound lack of respect for your employee as an adult with the right and ability to make their own choices and understand their own needs better than you do.

  60. Jen S.

    This is a case of the manager assuming what makes her happy makes everyone happy. It is frustrating for everyone involved.

  61. Yolo

    Honestly, OP, the line about not being able to get over it makes me think you might want to work with a therapist on your emotions around work and motherhood. That is very intense. I wish you well.

    1. Yolo

      Also, I hope that you see what is happening in the comment thread here as an indication of the kind of unwanted criticism and opinion-spouting that merely mentioning working parents in 2018 can engender.

  62. MLB

    While you started with good intentions, you fail to realize that all new moms are different. What works for one, may not work for another. And with a first child, a mom can want to do certain things, but then once the baby comes, change their mind or have something not work out the way they expected. You laid these options out prior to the employee having her baby. And that’s where things should have ended. You crossed WAY over the line by continuing to remind her that these things were available to her. I don’t blame her for going to HR. Do you enjoy others judging your own parenting style? Apologize for overstepping and then LET IT GO.

  63. animaniactoo

    OP, you would have killed for those perks because they worked with how you wanted to parent – and several women would agree with you. The key is that not all will. Different people prefer different setups – in this case, dad might be the one who wants and needs the flexible setup. Mom might work close enough to home that she feels like she’s getting enough time in with her child. She might be someone who comes from a culture where grandparents or nannies are in charge of early child-care, and that’s something she feels comfortable with and sees advantages to (and there can be advantages in that) and has actively chosen that as part of her parenting plan.

    The goal is not to have every person take advantage of such perks. The goal is to have such perks *available* for those who want them.

    What you’ve done here is basically to indicate to the world at large and very specifically to your employee that there is only one correct way to parent. Of course she’s upset about that! As a parent yourself – you should already be well aware that no matter how thoughtful you are about your parenting choices, there’s always someone who thinks you should be doing it differently and that Parents Just Can’t Win.

    So… while your heart was in the right place, you have basically bungled this. It’s like not forcing the wedding you wish you could have had on your child. Or the career or… you have to let them be free to be themselves. Because that’s really what you wanted, right? You wanted those perks in order to be the particular kind of parent you wanted to be with the experiences that went along with that. Your support to your employee is best expressed as helping her achieve what SHE wants for the parent she wants to be.

    Take a deep breath, talk to employee. “I badly wanted these things when I was a new parent. I can see now that I wanted them so badly, it never occurred to me that anyone wouldn’t and so I worked really hard to make sure that you did have them. I’m sorry I went overboard, please let me know what YOU want and need, because what I really want is to support you in that, whatever it is. I will do my best to make whatever that is happen for you.”

    1. Safetykats

      This. Although also remember that possibly what the employee wants and needs is for her manager to not be all up in her personal decisions and medical/insurance issues. Possibly the employee never wants to have another conversation about this with a boss who so clearly crossed all kinds of boundaries. The only part of your script I object to is the expectation (at the end) that the employee should be having some kind of conversation about these things with her manager. I would reframe that as IF there is anything you want or need – and at this point I would ensure that the employee knows she can also communicate with HR, who will communicate back to OP what is wanted or needed. Because the employee has zero obligation to have the kind of conversation that OP apparently wants to have. Because actually – legally – things like FMLA and accommodations can be arranged through HR without a manager ever knowing the detailed reason (except that presumably its medical).

      1. animaniactoo

        Well yes, I should have been clearer that “Whatever” includes “Don’t talk to me about this again unless I raise it with you.”

    2. nonymous

      OP can also periodically check in with employee to see if accommodations are needed going forward.

      I have one coworker who works remotely from a vacation region. She is very good about timing her births for the beginning of summer break (both her mom and sis work for schools) – all the children are born in a one week window, which is the same week that she, her siblings, mom and spouse share. Consequently, after every birth there is a big flurry of relatives to help with care, they go home around labor day and then her in-laws come for about 6 weeks over the holidays. She also has a full time nanny. However, that period between labor day and xmas? Spouse’s crunch time at work. So she needs more flexibility when baby is ~4mos old vs birth.

  64. Eye of Sauron

    OP, I would have been livid (yes it’s a strong word and emotion) if I had returned to work and found out that my pregnancy and all of the personal information that goes with it were the subject of conversations that I had not been a part of or even consulted. Then to be badgered by my boss for not meeting some weird maternal standards, which again includes very personal topics.

    Seriously, I know you meant well, but how dare you?!
    ____________
    ” I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it. ”
    ____________
    You really need a reality check… you have zero right/cause/place to be disappointed in this woman.

    1. fposte

      To be fair, the former is pretty common when an employee goes out on maternity leave. The issue isn’t that the OP talked about her staffer’s pregnancy; it’s that she seems to have misrepresented what the staffer wanted to have happen after it.

      1. Eye of Sauron

        The only conversations that I’ve had about employees going on maternity leave boil down to the following:

        To the employee:
        “Please make sure you get in touch with HR to discuss your leave”
        “Ok, let’s start thinking about coverage and transition”
        “Give me a call if you want as you start to get close to returning, but more importantly keep HR in the loop”
        “Let me know if you need anything”
        Oh and “Congrats!”

        To Anyone Else in my company:
        To my boss: “Jane’s likely to be on maternity leave from March to the beginning of June, we’ve got a plan in place for coverage”
        To anyone while the person is on leave “Sorry, Jane’s out for the next several months, please contact Wakeen in the interim”

        1. fposte

          I’m a lot more involved in my employees’ maternity leaves than that; it doesn’t go through HR, and we’re a small unit, so I’m au fait with people’s windows of possibility on both leave and return. It doesn’t sound like the OP was talking about anything more than that.

      2. Safetykats

        It’s pretty common but still inappropriate. Somehow pregnancy doesn’t get the respect other personal medical issues do, and there are aspects of pregnancy and childbirth that absolutely should. For example, a coworker’s cesarean shouldn’t be office gossip any more than a co-worker’s colostomy should. I might be happy sharing the details of my episiotomy with close friends, but I sure as hell don’t want it talked about at the water cooler. The answer to when someone will come back from maternity leave should be like the answer to when someone will come back from short term disability – that’s between them, their doctor, and HR.

        1. Eye of Sauron

          This has always been my philosophy.

          Not to say that I’m not excited and happy for someone who is pregnant, but that doesn’t translate into me getting into their business. I treat it as I would any other medical leave.

          I can understand being a little more hands on if there’s not an HR department, but I think for me if that were the case I’d only add in the leave details that HR would normally cover to the conversation.

        2. fposte

          We’re not talking about office gossip, though; we’re just talking about discussing maternity leave with one’s superiors. And it often can’t be just between the employee and their doctor and HR even in places where it goes through HR, because their manager needs to have an idea when their employee is going on leave and when she’s coming back.

          1. Reba

            Yeah, it sounds like it’s normal that the boundaries around work topics vs private stuff necessarily get moved around medical and family leave. And here they need to be redrawn post-haste.

  65. Lumen

    OP, your heart was in the right place initially, and I hope you’re willing to go to bat like this for future employees. Don’t (for lack of a better colloquialism) throw the baby out with the bathwater. But this right here:

    “My boss and HR are upset that I advocated for her without talking to her first.”

    They’re right. And your employee is brave for complaining instead of slapping on a smile and pretending it was okay. Pregnancy is already one of those deeply personal things that is also unavoidably public, and everyone from the government to strangers on the bus make it their business to tell mothers everything they’re doing wrong and everything they should be doing. That loss of privacy is, frankly, violating. We treat it as normal, but it’s not really an okay way to treat a person.

    In the future, separate all the things you worked to get for this employee and put them in your toolbox. Those are things you know you can achieve for new mothers, and that’s wonderful (you can and should add some of it to your toolbox for what you can achieve for new fathers and adoptive parents, too). Then, when an employee shares their news with you, reaffirm their agency and have an open discussion about what accommodations THEY think they need and want. Learn about their unique situation (as much as they’re comfortable sharing) and listen more than you talk. Then go to bat for them to get them what they need. But just… don’t do it without asking, like this time. That was where you went wrong. I don’t even think you went ‘overboard’; I just think you missed the first vital step.

    And definitely don’t broadcast your ‘disappointment’ that this employee wasn’t more grateful. That’s a really bad look. You meant well, but your violated her privacy and agency, and she deserves an apology from you for that. Depending on your relationship, it may even be okay to let her know that while it came from your own experience of being unsupported as a mother, you understand that she is not you, and that you know you shouldn’t have presumed that she would need or want what you would have needed or wanted.

    1. Eye of Sauron

      “They’re right. And your employee is brave for complaining instead of slapping on a smile and pretending it was okay. Pregnancy is already one of those deeply personal things that is also unavoidably public, and everyone from the government to strangers on the bus make it their business to tell mothers everything they’re doing wrong and everything they should be doing. That loss of privacy is, frankly, violating. We treat it as normal, but it’s not really an okay way to treat a person.”
      _____________________________________
      I wish you could hear me clapping for this paragraph.

    2. Former Retail Manager

      Soooo true and it continues on as you raise your children and people feel the need to offer advice. I was always down for helpful advice offered in a friendly manner, but that is rarely what I got. And in turn, they got “mind your own damn business.” Despite having my own child, I have literally zero desire to interact with complete strangers, or co-workers for that matter, and offer them any advice about anything. I figured out what worked for me and they will too.

      1. Lumen

        It’s the baggage of “if you do things differently than I did/than my parents did/than I want to do them, then you think that way is wrong and bad and you’re judging me!!!”

        And as we can see from this letter, that baggage is alive and well and tripping everyone up.

  66. Work Wardrobe

    I’ve read and re-read the comments and this is what I’m thinking:

    OP’s heart wasn’t in the right place, she didn’t come from a place of good intention, she didn’t mean well. Her intent was to force her employee to “mother” in the way OP wanted. She wasn’t thinking AT ALL about her employee having personal choices that did not involve the OP.

    OP intruded on a highly personal decision because SHE wished she’d had things different when she was a new mom.

    And oh, BTW — who says breastfeeding is the be-all and end-all? Millions of us were raised on the bottle and turned out just fine. Sheesh.

    1. Wut?

      +1.

      This doesn’t sound like good intentions. This is someone who wanted to do something BIG and BOLD and be inundated with gratitude. It wasn’t a good dead for the dead’s sake; it was for recognition.

      1. Lumen

        I gotta say, after I posted and read the letter again, it did seem very much like the OP wanted to do this as some kind of grand gesture that would vindicate her own long-ago suffering, which… isn’t great. And is very different from genuinely wanting to do something for someone else, but that’s the story she was telling herself. So in her story, she was well-intentioned and her heart was in the right place. But in reality, it was self-aggrandizement.

        Which is very sad. Someone else pointed out that maybe her difficulty in getting over this indicates that therapy would be helpful, and I have to agree. She’s clearly carrying some hurt and anger that has nothing to do with this employee of hers, and now this thing she thought would fix that hurt and anger for her has turned out much differently than she expected, which has just increased the hurt and anger. It’s time for her to find someone to talk to who can help her let go of it.

  67. Snowglobe

    As soon as I read the headline, I got a song stuck in my head (from Crazy Ex Girlfriend). “After All the Things I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For)”.

  68. Jess

    OP, you decided for your employee that she was going to stay home an extra 8 weeks and you decided for her that she was going to breastfeed …. these decisions are not up to you. I think you had good intentions but you neglected to ASK your employee how you could be supportive of her. Instead, you decided what she wanted and needed.
    And the comment about likely not having another pregnant employee is … well, creepy.

  69. Michelle

    Since HR and the boss told her to back off, should she go to the employee and apologize? I think she should just leave it alone (as instructed), find a way to “let it go” and treat the new mom as she did before the pregnancy.

    1. Lauren K Milligan

      This is a good question, but I think OP *needs* to apologize. If I were the employee, I’d be concerned that the manager was going to give unfair negative reviews or withhold projects. An sincere apology could result in repairing the damage that OP created.

    2. Oxford Comma

      I think if the LW sticks to Allison’s script, says it once and means it and then backs the heck away, that would be good.

  70. Observer

    As a mother who had a reasonably supportive boss, but who could have used a lot of what you are describing, I have to say WHOA! You need to back off, big time!

    As Alison said, it’s always a mistake to make assumptions about what someone wants or needs. Going to bat for them without talking to them always carries the risk that you’ve gotten it wrong. It’s disappointing, but you have absolutely zero standing to be upset AT HER.

    As for badgering her about taking more leave and trying to get her to start nursing – that’s SO over the line that I’m having a hard time staying withing guidelines. I’m a big nursing advocate, and I do tend to side eye women who choose not to nurse. But that stays TOTALLY in my head! Especially in the workplace!

    You say that you want to be supportive, but the reality is that you are not being supportive at ALL. You are subjecting your employee to a hostile workplace (not legally, probably, but in the vernacular meaning of the word) because she’s a mother who doesn’t meet your standards. That’s an awful situation to be in.

    Also, you say you want to be supportive, but it seems to be more about you and a desire to have a “do over” of your professional beginnings. I say this both because of your behavior and because you make a point of noting that you probably won’t have another pregnant employee again. That’s not a healthy attitude for you, and it’s not fair to your employee.

    1. Annoyed

      Great comment.

      As an aside how about not side eying women who choose not to nurse for whatever reason?

      Even if it stays in your head it’s judgment about someone else’s life choices which is a sucky thing to do.

  71. Nita

    OP, you are not your employee. Your employee is not you. You did all that advocating for an employee who did not want what you’re offering, without even asking her first. For all you know, she may be scared that what you did affected the way she’s viewed at the company – sadly, some bosses hate making accommodations even when required by law, and it does rub off on how they see the person needing the accommodations. Maybe she’s thinking that now she looks flaky – do the higher-ups know the original requests (that she later refused) did not come from her in the first place?

    And last of all, she does have arrangements in place – they don’t fit with your view of how a mother should behave, but why should they? She doesn’t owe you the chance to re-live your bad experience vicariously. It’s great that you went to bat for a fellow mom, really it is, but chalk this up to a learning experience about not making assumptions. Also, someone really may need the arrangements you’re making, and you’ve already blazed the trail. Actually, you never know who may need these arrangements next – people have all kinds of emergencies that don’t involve kids but could benefit from more time off. Sick parents, emergency surgeries, you name it.

    1. Nita

      Re-read the post again, and saw that the employee did know about the perk discussion before she left. That changes my feelings somewhat – she could have put a stop to the discussion if she really wanted. Still, it sounds like she wasn’t the one pushing for these things, either she was too surprised by the lengths OP was going to and didn’t speak up in time, or she thought she’d need the support but something in her circumstances changed. In any case, she has every right to make her own parenting decisions without her boss questioning them.

      1. MRK

        It’s possible OP wasn’t clear how many extras she was adding/asking for on behalf of the employee. It sounds like the company has some level of maternity leave options, and since the employee never asked for accommodations why would she think anything mentioned wasn’t status quo/optional. And now she’s back and getting harassed about not using all these “special things I got special for YOU” even though she never asked

  72. Intel Analyst Shell

    I went back to work after 8 weeks. I did not breastfeed (didn’t even try). I continue to work 7:30a-4:30p. And it is no one’s business. I can not imagine what kind of hostile environment your employee has had to come back to and you are quite obviously oblivious. Because I’m sure you also inquired about her birth plan, vaginal or c-section, medicated or natural. I would have been infuriated to find out someone was advocating for me on things I did not want or need.

    You should have focused on leaving a legacy of better maternity benefits when you retire instead of selfishly pushing your views on a new mom.

  73. Former Retail Manager

    OP mentions that they are only a few years away from retirement…..so I assume OP is probably around 60. I wonder, are you also in the South, OP? You sound like my mother. I may be way off base, and I don’t mean stereotype all people in that age group or geographic location, but I’ve noticed this is a thing with a fair amount of older, Southern ladies. I can only imagine it relates to their upbringing and the values of the time. My own mother is a bit older, at 72, and has done countless “nice things” for others throughout my life and then gotten upset when they didn’t like/appreciate what she did when they’d never asked her to do it. Some actions have bordered on downright insulting, but she genuinely believed that she was being helpful and didn’t understand their reactions.

    Regardless of whether I’m off base demographically or not, I’d tell you what I told her. “Nice things” don’t mean anything if the person doesn’t want them or is offended by them. Sometimes the nicest thing you can do is to ask what you can do. And if they say “nothing” take them at their word and leave them be.

    1. Zennish

      It’s not just you… same demographic, same issue with my mother. I’ve always chalked it up to low emotional intelligence. I honestly think she can’t fathom that everyone doesn’t like what she likes, or want what she wants, and is totally lost (and occasionally hostile) when faced with that reality.

    2. Jules the 3rd

      Nah, it happens all the time, all the demographics. Just different groups project themselves on different topics. Weddings, parenting, driving, home repairs…

    3. The Katie

      And mine. She’s Scottish (I live in Australia), and insists that I joyously accept everything she shoves in my face, whether it’s necessary or not.

  74. AKchic

    I’m horrified.

    At no time did you ask this employee if she wanted you to advocate for her for any of these “perks” that *you* would have wanted when you were pregnant in your younger days, and then expected her to not only utilize all of these “perks”, but be falling over herself in gracious praise. Now that you’re not getting that rapturous applause for your performative benevolence, you’re pouting and playing the victim.

    Her pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work were never about you. You cannot live vicariously through your pregnant/new mother coworkers. You seriously overstepped your professional boundaries.

    Apologies are in order. From you. Then you really need to reestablish professional boundaries and get back to work.

    1. fposte

      I don’t disagree with some of your points, but I think your second paragraph is an unnecessarily harsh assessment. There doesn’t have to be anything performative or praise-seeking about the desire to get somebody extended leave, even if the desire is misplaced.

      1. AKchic

        I don’t think I was. I think the LW needs a harsh wake-up call. What she did was beyond inappropriate. Everything she points out seems to loop back to herself. How disappointed *she* is, how hard *she* worked to get these things in place (unasked for, unwanted, unnecessary), and how they weren’t/aren’t being utilized and how *she* feels about that. Then how shocked *she* is when the other woman complains about her overstepping her professional boundaries in the first place.

        She may have started out with the best of intentions, but she skipped the very first and most important step of all: asking the person who’s attention she’s focused on, and finding out if they actually needed or wanted help in the first place.

        Hopefully the company will keep these new maternity preparations in place for the next woman to benefit from them. The perks do sound wonderful (some I would have appreciated when I was pregnant).

        1. fposte

          I think harshness adds nothing valuable and impairs a message; more to the point, the commenting guidelines specifically ask us to be kind.

          1. Claire

            What you are reading as harsh I’m reading as clear, direct and fair. Nothing unkind in that. I don’t see why things need to be sugarcoated.

                1. Sabine the Very Mean

                  Not to mention, this is how she comes across to us and very likely to her boss, HR, and her employee. I agree. Harsh but fair.

  75. Tema

    Yikes. I get your heart was initially in the right place, but your employee could have been me, and I’m wincing reading it. My work offers six months of leave. I could have afforded it. However, I was very concerned about the effect maternity leave would have on my mental health. I have depression issues that flair particularly with unstructured time. I had a talk with my boss and asked her if I could have a flexible return date so I could come back earlier than the six if I needed to. She was supportive (and told me she made a similar decision). By month three, I was desperate to go back to work and did. And I was a better mother for it. I got some judgment from people, but thankfully only support from my boss. It would have been enormously negative for me if my boss had shamed me for my choice to return to work. (Let alone about breastfeeding! Which is so fraught for mothers as it is.)

    It seems as though you thought to yourself, I look forward to making sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to other women. That’s a great goal. As Alison said, you went wrong in assuming the best way to help a new Mom was to give her what you would have wanted. That you said you likely won’t have another pregnant employee tells me your ego became part of this, which isn’t okay. Supporting your employees means supporting the people you have, not getting what you think is an amazing system and then expecting accolades for doing so when you apparently didn’t check to see what the employee actually wanted.

    Like I said, you started wanting to support your employee. I hope you make it back to that space.

  76. SheLooksFamiliar

    OP, this part of your letter stuck out for me, especially your last sentence: ‘I’m disappointed I stuck my neck out and went to bat for her, only for her to turn around and not use any of the help and perks I got for her. She knew about all of them before she left on maternity leave.’

    I’ve never had children so I can’t put myself in an expectant mother’s shoes. But many of my family and friends told me they weren’t sure what to expect with their first baby, and they preferred not to make hard-and-fast decisions until after its arrival. My sister – always healthy and a fast healer – had a terrible time with both her pregnancies and C-sections. She would have taken a whole year off if she could have. Then there’s my co-worker who planned to take her entire mat leave plus accrued vacation and time off. She was back at work in a month, happy to be back and raring to go. Surprise!

    As so many people have already said, your employee was not obligated to take you up on your accommodations, nor was she obligated to share her plans with you. It doesn’t matter that she knew about your accommodations before she had her baby, as you seemed to hint. She wasn’t being dishonest, she was merely handling things as she saw fit.

    Please don’t let your disappointment stop you from supporting another parent. But as a manager, all you can do is inform your employees of policies and accommodations available to them, and support them in the way THEY want to be supported.

  77. HRTripp

    OP one other thing to consider is how hard it is nowadays to get your infant into a good daycare. Depending on where you live daycares could have really long wait lists.

    I had my baby on 12/29/17 and was on the waitlist for his daycare since September 2017. My son will be starting daycare the last week of April because that was the soonest opening they had available. I get to work from home two days a week but it was a lot harder to find a daycare that would take an infant part time because there is such a demand for full time care and the centers could make so much more on full time care. I’ll be paying $1,100/month for part time care but it’s better than the $1,700/month for full time.

    I’m currently on week 15 of post baby care and technically could have taken an additional 3 more weeks but they would have been unpaid but I’m so ready to get back to work. I love my baby and it’s sad to have to put him in daycare but honestly working is good for my mental health.

    1. HRTripp

      I forgot to say that your employee could have chosen to go back after the original 12 weeks because that is when she could arrange for her child care to start. The daycare she selected most likely wouldn’t have held her spot for an additionally 8 weeks or guarantee that they’d have a spot available for her baby at that time

  78. GarlicMicrowaver

    Whoa. You have violated so many boundaries and are appearing to project your own personal frustrations onto your employee. How is it your employee’s problem that you were disappointed in your past inflexible maternity leave? Whether your heart was in the right place or not, you still went around her and are now angry she’s not responding exactly how you want her to. That’s co-dependency and reassurance seeking right there- two signs of toxic behavior, per Allison’s comment that you made two mistakes. How would you feel if someone bought you a house withour your input or planned a surprise vacation for you without your input? Would it be reasonable for them to hold it against you for not having an obviously gracious reaction?

    Had you spoken to her first, and better yet, tried to implement this policy company-wide and not just for one employee, the outcome could have been drastically different. But you didn’t, so what now? Apologize profusely for not respecting her boundaries.

    Sorry to say, this questions your integrity as a manager on all kinds of levels.

  79. Heat's Kitchen

    I agree with all the comments here. Your intentions were good, but you NEED to make sure the outcomes you had are now policy and you need to get over your (irrational) disappointment.

    Now, on a personal note, I am pregnant with my second child. My company offers amazing leave – I will get 18 weeks paid and I am taking the full leave. I have multiple other colleagues due around the same time, and not every one of them is taking their entire leave. I will admit that personally, I am disappointed as I want to advocate for more leave in general in the US (18 weeks would still be scoffed at in a lot of other countries), however, I have NEVER voiced these concerns to my colleagues and never would. Some of them are choosing to split their leave (we’re allowed to do that). Others know they don’t want to stay home with an infant for that long. It’s totally their choice. If one of them said to me, “I feel like I’ll look bad at work for taking my full leave,” that would be a different story and I’d encourage them to take it. But in the end, it’s their decision entirely.

    1. Observer

      That’s really the key thing. Of someone expresses a practical issue that you can help them with, by all means offer to help. Otherwise, stay out!

      And that’s what the OP seems to have missed.

  80. Valegro

    What is with employers and pregnancy? I work for a guy who wouldn’t let my coworker do many of the things she was allowed to do by her doctor. He threatened to fire her if she was caught doing any of them for her own good. He also threatened her with unpaid leave during her pregnancy because of morning sickness and not being allowed to do many parts of her job. There are less than 50 employees so fewer protections and filing a complaint would blacklist her locally in our industry. Shockingly enough, she did not return to work.

  81. Hannah

    I think this phrase is the most telling: “I may never have another pregnant employee.”

    I think maybe you were trying to live vicariously through her. Does that ring true at all? Not that you necessarily want to be the one having the baby, but you wanted the pregnancy/maternity situation that you wanted for yourself, but never got. You probably felt really empowered getting all those accommodations and forgot that this really isn’t about you at all. Your letter reminds me of parents who say things like “I sacrificed things I wanted so you could have those piano lessons!” to their kids…who don’t want piano lessons. Except this isn’t your kid, this is your employee.

    I’m guessing your employee feels judged by your comments, and that’s a really hard thing to feel as a new mom especially. I bet an apology + never ever commenting on her parenting choices again will go a really long way in repairing the damage here.

    I hope that you can take some solace in that by getting these accommodations for your employee, you may have paved the way for the same for another employee down the road who may want and need what you arranged.

  82. Llama Grooming Coordinator

    Aside from the advice being REALLY on point: LW, I wouldn’t be so sure about that! Like, I supervise a team with 20 women and two of them are pregnant right now. I’m not sure how large your office is, but pregnancy is a pretty common thing. Even after you retire, it’s almost inevitable that someone else will be expecting a child in the future – and as long as your company is in that building, they’ll have that space.

    I’d try to reframe it like that. Your employee may not want the things you got for her, but they doesn’t mean it was a waste.

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator

      (And yes, I agree that LW is seriously out of her lane in how she feels about her employee’s choices. But I still think that what she arranged would be useful to ANY pregnant women in her company, which means quite a bit.)

  83. Lindsay Gee

    “told me she doesn’t feel bad for choosing to work when she could afford to stay home and not breastfeeding even though she could have”
    OP, so does this mean that you think she should feel bad for wanting to get back to her career and use formula? Because that is INSANE. Please don’t be one of those people who think they get to judge other people’s pregnancy and child rearing decisions when they have nothing to do with you. You may have strong opinions about what is the right or wrong way, but its never your business (in the extreme circumstances you think the child is being harmed). Please take this forward into your own life outside of work. You mentioned you had children, so when/if your own children have children, please keep this lesson in mind. because this sort of attitude will alienate you from people.

  84. PNWflowers

    OP, as a working mom who would KILL for those perks, as someone who is breastfeeding a toddler while pregnant, who didn’t go back to work until my oldest was almost a year… you are so, so wrong. Breastfeeding/pumping is not for everyone and it’s not a moral failure. Returning to work prior to the end of maternity leave is not a moral failure. There are so many valid reasons behind various parenting choices, and children thrive when everyone in the family unit is well cared for. If your employee chooses to formula feed and work, then assume that is what is best for her, and by extension, her child. Formula is not poison- it is a valid, healthy alternative that arose to prevent parents from having to feed children beer, contaminated water, animal milk they can’t digest, etc. It can also be incredibly hard on your body, and pumping requires in an ordinate amount of time to ensure cleanliness, enough supplies, right frame of mind, etc. You don’t get to decide how other people parent, and the idea that people conflate formula feeding with child abuse is frankly, absurd. It’s also really sexist to assume a father can’t adequately care for his child. Additionally, exclusive breastfeeding has been linked to increased risk of failure to thrive, hospital readmissions for jaundice (which can have lifetime consequences, including permanent brain damage) and postpartum mood disorders.

    I’m sorry there were not better protections in place for you as a working mom. Please redirect your energy from this employee (who needs a LOT less attention from you) and spend it working to ensure adequate protections for ALL working parents. That would be a much better legacy then harassing this woman.

    1. Guacamole Bob

      Thank you for mentioning the difficulties with pumping. Even women who successfully breastfeed may have trouble with pumping – sometimes it’s painful, or just not very effective, and it’s incredibly time-consuming (essentially doubling the time devoted to feeding the baby, though the time can be split between the pumping mother and other caregivers). I pumped briefly after going back to work, and found it massively disruptive to my workflow and workday, and I was in a fairly flexible job.

      I support women who choose to pump at work, but wow is it not the best option for everyone.

      1. PNWflowers

        It was so hard! I agree. It’s an option, but not necessarily the best option or an option for everyone.

  85. Dust Bunny

    You didn’t by any chance take initiative and undermine your boss in a previous letter, did you?

    This isn’t about you.

    Overall, the things you did were good things, but they shouldn’t have been done on your employees behalf, but wit