Special needs assistants seek same breastfeeding breaks as school teachers
New mothers working as special needs assistants (SNAs) have demanded the same entitlements to breastfeeding breaks as the teachers they work alongside.
SNAs get just a quarter of the time their counterparts do to pump breast milk during their working day.
The Department of Education allows women working as SNAs to have breastfeeding breaks until the baby is 26 weeks old, whereas teachers are allowed breaks until the baby is two years old.
"If I was working in a classroom with a teacher who is also breastfeeding, she is entitled to an hour a day to pump, separate to her own lunch breaks, while I sit in the classroom and let my supply dry up," said one mother working as an SNA in a primary school.
"As it takes 20 minutes to pump, my choice on my lunch break is either I eat or I pump.
"I feel like I'm being forced to stop breastfeeding," she continued.
"I requested a 10-minute break onto my break during the school day so I could have time to eat and then pump and this request was denied." The issue was recently raised in a parliamentary question by Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan.
Education Minister Joe McHugh acknowledged the time for breastfeeding given to teachers and said, following consultation with school and staff representatives, the extension of these provisions to SNAs was "under consideration".
Conor Sheehan, a local election candidate for Labour in Limerick, said increasing the time "wouldn't cost the education minister a single penny".
"Both replies from the education minister merely say that consideration is being given and to date no progress has been made," he said.
"While numbers are increasing, Ireland continues to have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. This simple rule change will make a massive difference to working mothers."