Professor Tells Mom Not to Breastfeed in Her Own Home During Virtual Class

A California mom was complying with school rules that required her camera and microphone to be on during class but was scolded for breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. Because parenting in 2020 isn't hard enough already, right?

Breast pump on desk with laptop
Photo: Getty Images

If there's one thing all parents need right now, it's some grace. We're struggling to raise children while working, studying, maintaining our homes, feeding our kids, managing their COVID fears, managing our own COVID fears. The list pretty much never ends. So yeah, some support from the outside world is very much in order right now.

Unfortunately, many parents are receiving the exact opposite of grace—take Marcella Mares, a California college student who was told not to breastfeed her own child (in her own home, no less) during class.

According to CNN, the mom's professor required all students to turn on their cameras and microphones during class, which is being held virtually right now. Mares replied saying she would comply but may have her camera and microphone on while breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. A totally valid thing to do, right? After all, the mom is attending class from her own home, and she, like so many other parents, may not have childcare at the moment—which means she, like so many other parents, has to find ways to parent while simultaneously working towards a degree.

But the professor's reply shocked Mares. "I am glad to hear that you can have your camera and microphone on, but please do not breastfeed your daughter during class time because it is not what you should be doing," the instructor replied, according to CNN. "Just do that after class."

This would be bad enough under normal circumstances—when a breastfeeding mother needs to feed her child, she needs to feed her child, and no one should ever tell her otherwise, especially when she's in her own house. And while we understand that a professor wants his students fully engaged in class, we're in the middle of a global pandemic and parents have no choice but to multitask. The fact that this professor pushed back when a student simply needed to feed her child (babies don't exactly understand the concept of waiting for food, you know) while getting an education at the same time—it's just not okay. So not okay.

And it gets worse: Apparently, the professor told the whole class about a "weird" email from a student who wanted to do "inappropriate" things during class. Granted, there's no way of knowing for certain that the professor was referencing this mom's email, but we cannot even imagine how shamed she must have felt. Mares reached out to the school's Title IX coordinator about the issue, and she received an apology from the professor a few days later. He also allowed her to breastfeed during any portion of class (like, thanks for giving a mother permission to nourish her own baby in her own home?).

Pandemic or not, being a college student and a mother has to be incredibly tough, and we wish fellow students and professors would do more to make it possible. For example, this professor, who held a student's child during class to help her out, or this professor who replied perfectly when a student missed class due to lack of childcare.

Sadly, this pandemic has made it even more obvious that, when it comes to supporting parents in all their endeavors, we need to do better. Mothers are leaving the workforce in massive numbers. A mom claims she was fired after her kids could be heard in the background of her Zoom calls. And parents everywhere are nearly drowning under the weight of responsibilities, the weight of trying to weigh the benefits of school or childcare against the undeniable health risks. It's a lot, to say the least. And even though an apology was ultimately issued, this story is the perfect example of what not to do to a person who is parenting in 2020.

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