My name is To-wen Tseng. I’m a journalist, previously a TV reporter, now a freelance writer.
I’m also a wife to my husband who is a computer engineer, and a mother to our little one, who is now 17 months old.
I didn’t really have a breastfeeding plan when I first got pregnant. I came from a culture that is relatively breastfeeding unfriendly. Currently in China, less then 30% of newborn are being breastfed. Being raised in Taiwan, I’ve never seen anybody breastfeed when I was growing up. However after a prenatal interview with my then future pediatrician, I decided to breastfeed.
So I became a mother with an exclusively breastfed baby. In August of last year, I returned to work when my baby was 3 moth old. I was writing for World Journal, the largest Chinese-language newspaper serving North America.
On Oct 21st, the newspaper published an article titled “Breastfeeding Photos Embarrass Chinese-American to death,” describing breastfeeding in pubic and/or sharing breastfeeding photo as “disturbing” and “disgusting,” As a breastfeeding mother, I was shocked and offended. I talked to my editor, but he didn’t think there was any problem with that article. The newspaper received complains from readers, but had no response.
I was very, very disappointed. The truth is, the company wasn’t friendly to breastfeeding mothers. We didn’t have a nursing room, even though California law requires appropriate reasonable space for pumping.
I was pumping in the restroom. When I washed my pumping parts in the kitchen, some of my colleagues would say, “don’t wash your dirty panties in the office.” I reported this to Human Resources, but they never dealt with it.
Later they published an article claiming that it is impractical for employers to provide lactation accommodations. I spoke with the editor-in-chief, a newsperson whom I once admired. We sat down for a 3-hour long conversation and he insisted that there was nothing wrong with the article, that I was overreacting, that I had a personal issue.
So I quit, ending a 10-year-long relationship with them. I sued the newspaper for sex discrimination.
The suit was settled and one thing I didn’t agree was confidentiality. They wanted to pay for my silence which I refused. Other than that I’m happy about the agreement, it requires the company to change its policies regarding lactation accommodations and to share these policies with staff in multiple languages. Moreover, all the supervisors will be trained on the policy and how to respond to requests for lactation accommodations.
Ten years is a long time to devote to a career. I loved my job but had to end it because of a hostile reaction to breastfeeding. I turned down the financial compensation in my lawsuit, so that I could speak out about this type of discrimination. My hope is to yes my example to encourage other Chinese-American mothers. I’m glad that my Chinese blog is getting lots of response.
So, I can say this today–all the mother can help make breastfeeding easier.
Thanks. Have a great weekend!
TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞