The first day of class is usually a colossal bore, filled with little more than syllabus review and discussion of expensive required textbooks. But when a first class includes a breastfeeding professor, people tend to talk about it.
That’s exactly what happened on the first day of the fall semester at American University in Washington D.C. Assistant professor of anthropology Adrienne Pine faced a situation every working single parent must dread: Her one-year-old daughter woke up with a fever, which meant she couldn’t be taken to daycare as planned.
With no back-up childcare and not wanting to cancel the first day of her sex, gender and culture class, Pine decided to take her sick child to work with her.
None of the students seemed to mind the presence of the child, who crawled around on the floor for most of the class. But when the baby began to fuss, Pine did something that would gain a lot of attention: She fed her baby, from her breast, while continuing to lecture to her 40 new students.
Word that a professor bared her breast during class spread across the AU campus. Then it spread across the Internet, and Pine found herself at the center of a debate about breastfeeding rights.
It’s unfortunate that a woman’s right to feed her baby from the most natural source whenever the need arises is even up for debate.
In fact, the only problem I see in Pine breastfeeding her child in class is that her child was in class at all.
Though not the case for many working parents, Pine is lucky in that her position entitles her to time off in such a situation, whether that time lands on the first day of class or not.
While it may not have been ideal for Pine to cancel class or allow her teaching assistant to run through the syllabus, it was a perfectly viable option that she chose to ignore, and the outcome was beneficial to no one.
Certainly a college professor and mother is aware of how contagious a sick child can be. If the baby was too sick to be taken to daycare, why would Pine think it was acceptable to bring her to a college classroom?
Even the most maternal of Pine’s students, many of whom probably live in dorms and share facilities, would have preferred she cancel class and spare them the possible study-derailing cold (which Pine herself later caught).
Putting aside the health risks, Pine’s decision to bring her baby to work with her was disrespectful to her students, who pay to learn from her and deserve her full attention.
Keeping an eye on a baby is a demanding, constant task, and it’s impossible to devote yourself fully to anything else when a baby must be watched. I wonder how Pine would react if one of her students came to class with a sick baby in tow and tended to it while taking notes?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the breastfeeding aspect of the situation, as it’s seemingly the most controversial detail. If Pine hadn’t fed her baby in the middle of class, there would very probably be no story. But in the end, all of the unwanted attention Pine has received could have been avoided if she practiced common sense and took a day off to care for her sick baby.
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