Posted by: amamasblog | September 13, 2007

Nursing Mother / Doctor-To-Be Denied Time To Pump

This story was brought to my attention today.  I am so shocked and disappointed in this board’s decision  they will not allow this mother, Sophie, extra time for pumping breaks during her nine hour medical exam.  She has a four-month old daughter, who is nursing- like Sophie said, what is she supposed to do?  Let her milk drip all over the computer? Here’s another story on the issue:

BOSTON — Sophie Currier is a breast-feeding mother of two who has just completed an MD-Ph.D. program at Harvard University.Before she can have the doctor-scientific research career she’s dreamed of she must pass a nine-hour medical licensing exam scheduled for next week. But the National Board of Medical Examiners is refusing to let her have the extra time she needs to pump breast milk every
three hours in order to avoid serious medical complications.

“Because it’s physically impossible for a nursing mom to go nine hours or nine and a half hours without expressing milk, I told them that they were putting me in a position of choosing between nursing my child and taking this exam and advancing my career,” Currier said.

Currier has already overcome serious obstacles in her life — dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. To fight this obstacle, she is suing the licensing board, alleging discrimination.

“I think that it’s actually discriminating against women because men don’t have to do this job. No male will ever have to face this problem of deciding between feeding their child and taking an exam,” Currier said.

An attorney for the board said, “We can’t have an ad hoc preference for Sophie Currier. It wouldn’t be fair to others taking the test or to the public.”

But Currier said one of the things that bothers her the most is what she calls the hypocrisy of the board’s position.

“The medical community is putting a huge effort out — or portions of the medical community — to encourage women to breastfeed. If we are to breastfeed we need to be accommodated to do so,” Currier said.

Currier said that she hopes that a federal judge will simply order the board to give her additional break time beyond the total 45 minutes the rules now allow.

Sophie is so right on all of this, especially the hypocrisy found in the medical community in regards to breastfeeding.  It isn’t like she is going to going to go into the bathroom and look up answers to her exam on her laptop- she’ll be pumping her breasts!  Furthermore, as any woman who has nursed knows, when you can’t nurse, and don’t pump, at the very least you become engorged, uncomfortable, and can experience pain.  As if the exam wasn’t hard enough, she would have to divert some of her attention away from her test, and be worried about this. 

When the attorney for the board says extra breaks wouldn’t be fair to others or the public, then offer everyone extra breaks, and how is it not fair to the public?- Give me a break!  Nursing your baby is one of the best things a mother can do for her baby, for society, and for the public!

I also think Sophie hits the nail on the head when she mentions men will never have to be faced w/ this issue.  I can’t help but think if men breastfed, there would be nursing lounges in every restaurant, public place, breastfeeding breaks at work & school, and of course they would grant as many breaks as needed during exams to pump. Men would never be forced into a bathroom stall to pump during their breaks, and lunch hours, for fear of being “found out,” and being discriminated against because they are breastfeeding their baby.

It is sad so many women STILL have to fight so hard just to do what is natural and what is best for their babies.  Even though great strides have been made in accepting breastfeeding in our culture, stories like this remind us, there is still a long way to go until women won’t have to choose between feeding their babies and their career, or have to resort to a lawsuit to ensure they can breastfeed. 

I am glad she is challenging the ruling- it is only because of women like her that changes and progress are made!



  1. Unbelievable! Thank you for sharing this post. You are right on with all of your thoughts.
    If I were her, I’d be lugging in my hand pump (or my battery charged pump) and I’d be pumping right under my shirt during the Exam. See if they like that!

  2. I cannot believe this ruling! How absurd!
    If they don’t reverse the ruling I would agree with lights steele. Bring a battery operated pump and do it right there.

  3. I”ve been out of the loop lately because I’ve been so sick, but I had to fight to get my 15 minutes twice a day to pump. I’m a teacher and my prinicpal did not want to allow another teacher in my room for the extra time that I needed: she said it wasn’t fair.
    I finally won because I just wasn’t going to argue about this…I’m should be pumping 3 times during the day, I’m agreeing to only doing it twice and that’s still not good enough for you?
    I agree that she should just do it while sitting there. See how that affects the”general public”.

  4. Have you read all of the information on this, though? They have made several other accommodations for her. They are allowing her to take the test over 2 days instead of the 1 day that others get. They have offered her her own room to take the test in so that she can pump while she takes the test. Plus, as a mother who pumped for over a year, I find that 45 mins is more than enough time. I am very pro-nursing and had to fight for my rights a few times, but once I heard ALL of the facts, I have to agree with them. She could pump as many times as wants in the private room that they offered her. Why she didn’t accept, I don’t understand….

  5. Mary,

    I hadn’t heard that information-thanks for posting it.

    I think a lot of mothers would like the private room, but also some wouldn’t. Personally, I wouldn’t like to be singled out as the only student having to take the test in a different room. It would make me feel different, self conscious, and like I was being quarantined or something, b/c I was nursing.

    I know this isn’t the case w/ Sophie now, but I don’t feel it is anyone else’s business if I am nursing. Why should women have to be singled out and “banished” to another room- why not just schedule an extra break, if that is what the nursing mother is requesting?

    Like it or not, eventually this will happen again somewhere. I think it is much more productive for organizations to meet the needs of nursing mothers on a case-to-case basis, when they can. One mother might not like to be singled out and have to take the test in a different room, and have everyone know she is nursing. Another mother may love this idea. This case is just one mother- it seems like they should be able to grant her some extra time during the breaks.

    For Sophie to go through all this trouble, time, and expense, there must me more to the story, and she must have some very good reasons for not accepting some of the other accommodations offered to her. I know there are two sides to every story though, and hopefully they will be able to find an acceptable solution.

  6. Sophie should save the money she is spending on her lawyer and take an exam prep course to get the 3 points she needs to pass lest someone challenge the hard work she has put into earning her Phd/Md. I can hear O’reilly saying “Oh they must have given her extra time during her entire post grad education or the answers to test and so now she feels entitled to extra extra time on the exam that separates the wheat from the chaff.” Stop doing talk shows Sophie, get your 3 points and move on with your life.

  7. […] Nursing Mom Gets Extra Time For Test Here is an update on the story of Sophie Currier, the nursing mother of a 4-month old, who sued the National Board of Medical Examiners, because […]

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