Pumping in the Bathroom: A Look at the Real Dangers

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A Fall River, Massachusetts breastfeeding mother who was prepared to meet her civic obligation as a juror in district court last week was told by an officer of the court to pump breastmilk for her 5 month old baby in the restroom.

Although there are no laws to specifically exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, according to the Massachussetts Trial Juror’s Handbook, jurors “have the right to reschedule your jury service to a date that is convenient for you, up to a year from the date you were originally summoned.”
Nonetheless, nurse & first time mother Colleen Swanson, who was at the time unaware of the hardship extension clause, showed up for jury duty prepared to pump for her baby during their absence, but reasonable and sanitary pumping accomodations were not given to her. Mrs. Swanson told me that apparently this is not the first time that a breastfeeding mother has been asked to pump in the restroom since the officer didn’t seem taken aback when she asked for a place to pump and immediately directed her toward the restroom and even gave her an extension cord to use.
She was told by a local reporter covering her story that a representative from the court stated that had she complained, she would have been given better accommodations.
Thankfully, Mrs. Swanson was not impaneled, which is a good thing since the case involved was a murder trial!
I doubt that, given their lack of sensitivity in regards to a sanitary, private pumping area, they would have been accommodating for a mother who has to step out to pump every couple of hours.

So what’s the big deal? The bathroom isn’t so bad, and at least it’s a private place, right?
WRONG!!!!

Let’s just put this matter into perspective with peer reviewed research, shall we?
Raise your hand if you refuse to even sit down on a public toilet seat? I canter into a public restroom and proceed to squat over the seat, being very careful not to touch the germs that I know are lurking there. (Ok, most of the time I do use the seat covers & sit down…I just said that to make the point that we already know that bathrooms are gross) I flush with my foot, and after I wash my hands, I keep my paper towel so that I won’t have to touch the germ-laden door knob. But according to the research, toilet seats are the least of our worries…
New research conducted by microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, showed that the average toilet paper dispenser has more than 150 times the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat. Paper towel dispensers were found to have over 50 times more bacteria on average than a typical public restroom toilet seat. Further, this study concluded that toilet plume aerosol (the water & particles that are ejected from the toilet when we flush) could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases.
That’s right. When we flush, millions of tiny fecal (POOP!) particles are thrust into the air and land on all of the surfaces of the restroom. Have you ever been into one of those mega-fast, overdrive toilets that sound like a jet plane taking off flushed? Can you imagine the “plume aerosol” from those???

A study by the Infectious Diseases Society of America seen here showed that mall, hospital, offices, lecture hall, conference center, department stores, restaurants, airport, and resort restrooms contained “predominant gram-positive organisms including Staphylococcus spp., Micrococcus spp., Bacillus spp., and Enterococcus spp. Isolated Gram-negative microorganisms were mostly Enterobacteriaceae (e.g., Escherichia coli, Klebsiella spp., Cronobacter spp., Leclercia spp., Pantoea spp., Serratia spp.) or non-fermenters. Quantitative cultures documented extensive contamination of all high-touch surfaces. For several restrooms, the quantity of microorganisms was too numerous to count (TNTC), even given our process of counting up to 1,000 CFU/ml. Faucets, soap and paper dispenser operating levers, and the exit door handle of restaurants and aircraft restrooms were more likely to have concentrations of microorganisms TNTC compared with other locations. “
You read that right: There were so many harmful microbes in the restrooms that they tested, because there was so much bacteria, it was too much to count!
Whoa.
They concluded that “documented extensive bacterial contamination of high-touch environmental sites in 22 public restrooms and aircraft, including a wide spectrum of Gram-positive and Gram-negative microorganisms. Cultures obtained in the restrooms of fast-food restaurants were more likely to have quantitative colony counts TNTC. Cultures of high-touch sites in three restrooms located in different areas of a tertiary care hospital yielded six microorganisms that are responsible for two-thirds of healthcare-associated infections.”

Private, indeed.
Actually, when we use a public restroom, it isn’t a private experience at all. We are subjecting ourselves to all of the bacteria of all of the people who have used that restroom recently, and this poses a serious heath risk, especially for vulnerable individuals such as infants.

A restroom is no place for food, of any kind, and is certainly not the place for a tiny baby to eat!
Knowing all of the dangerous germs that are lurking in public restrooms, would you prepare your food or sit down and eat your dinner there?
Certainly not! So please don’t expect an infant to.

Here’s how you can help:
Call or write the Fall River District Court and let them know that a public restroom is NOT a sanitary place for breastfeeding mothers to pump and respectfully ask them to make accommodations for future use.

Mailing Address
Fall River District Court
186 South Main Street
Fall River, MA 02721

Main phone number
(508)491-3200

Have a boobiful day & leave a supportive comment for beautiful mama Colleen! ❤️

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13 responses »

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have to show my other half who is uncomfortable with me NIP without a cover. And sometimes, I just forget my cover. He has said just go in the restroom. I stood my ground and said no, but had no facts why. He will be reading this blog and better never ask me to go nurse in a restroom!!

  2. I have shared this article on the Facebook page Breastfeeding/MaMa Talk. I hope it helps to spread the word, and put pressure on this court to provide a sanitary, private area for women to pump!

  3. if you’re squatting, i hope you at least have the decency to clean up after yourself. squatters make the toilet seats as disgusting or more so than the people that just cover it and sit. you really lost me instantly with the squatting bit. also, at least in ca, it says right on the summons that you can postpone if you are breastfeeding.

  4. Oh, so YOU’RE the reason there’s always pee on at least one toilet seat when I venture into a public restroom. Thanks a lot.

    Seriously, the practice of not sitting on the seat makes it far dirtier than it would have been otherwise, because women can’t aim as easily as men can and sometimes we miss the target. Especially if our legs get tired from squatting.

    You are touching germs all day, every day and most of them are never going to kill you, not even from a toilet seat. My little girl’s dad had a lingering upper respiratory infection and his doctor’s office swabbed his sinuses (yes, every bit as fun as it sounds) and ran a DNA test. He said he got a nice long list back of all the bugs up in his head, including at least one type of pneumonia bacterium, but they did pinpoint that he was infected with a cold virus. But what I’m saying is *that’s in your BODY*. And your GI tract is even more germy. And you’re still here.

    That said, a bathroom’s a disgusting place to prepare food, even food for a baby. Maybe especially so. So thanks for pointing this out, at least.

    • Lol I made the comment about squatting to pee just to make a point..usually there are toilet seat covers available and I do sit down. :) And yes, we have germs all around, in, and on us, and a lot of them are good bacteria.

    • Right?! Cover or no cover, just sit on the seat. I stopped reading after that. Yes, bathrooms are dirty and I would never nurse/pump in one, but I can’t take people seriously that are such germophobes that they can’t just sit, flush, open the door, etc.

      • Haha! I shouldn’t even respond since you couldn’t be bothered to read the post before commenting, but…
        It’s just making my day that people are so outraged about my comment about squatting! Lol! I’m nowhere near being a germophobe, I live on a farm for goodness sake!
        But since I know that, according to staticstics, a large amount of people do not wash after using the toilet, I’d rather not touch the doorknob & then go eat a meal.

  5. Thank you for this post. Very informative. I love the factual backup information included. I’ve shared it several times with my Facebook groups: KellyMom Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding Support as well as Dairy Queens. Having proper support to handle breastfeeding in public is few and far between. I really appreciate this (even of you do squat)(I think they missed the point).

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