Chicago Tribune: She’s back: Sen. Tammy Duckworth on breast-feeding (probably not on the Senate floor) and her work-life balance

Even before she returned from maternity leave, Tammy Duckworth, the first woman to give birth while serving in the U.S. Senate, pushed a resolution that allows infants on the Senate floor. The measure, which passed, means she and other new-parent senators won’t have to miss a vote.

Weeks after returning to her day job, the Illinois Democrat said she has no intention right now of breast-feeding on the Senate floor. But if she ever gets into a situation where she has to, she will.

“My daughter’s got to eat, and I’ve got to vote,” she told the Tribune in a brief phone interview from Washington D.C. “So we’ll figure that out as we go along.”

The junior senator has long been an advocate for breast-feeding mothers. She penned an op-ed in Cosmopolitan magazine, in which she reflected about her experience as a breast-feeding mom who traveled frequently, calling for more lactation rooms in airports and outlining the legislation she helped introduce to address the issue.

Duckworth, who jumped back into life on the Hill with her new daughter at her side, doesn’t think she’s doing anything extraordinary.

“I think it’s probably the same as anybody else going back to work from maternity leave,” Duckworth said Wednesday afternoon in the middle of a frenetic day.

Duckworth said she’s juggling ordinary responsibilities like millions of other working parents. She’s coordinating with her mom and nanny, both on hand to help out, pumping every 3 hours, making sure her older daughter gets to ballet class and trying to get home in time to make dinner.

But despite her every-parent insistence, there are a few exceptions: The Iraq War veteran who lost both legs and partial use of an arm in combat is the first senator to give birth while in office. And her new daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, is the first baby to hold court on the Senate floor.

Duckworth let out a big laugh when asked how she’s doing it all. But she noted a small victory — Maile (pronounced My-Lee) slept for almost 5 hours straight this week.

Aside from the balancing act, the greatest challenge at the moment is that, emotionally, her loyalties are divided. “When you’re in one place you’re worried about the other constantly,” said Duckworth.

“When I’m at work I’m thinking about my babies,” she said. “I just had 3 glorious months of snuggling my newborn but also taking my daughter to ballet and being there when she’s learning to swim and just spending all this time with her.”

And yet, when she was home she thought, “I’ve got to get in there and do my job.”

Duckworth gave birth in April to Maile, her second daughter, whose name derives from Duckworth’s husband Bryan Bowlsbey’s great-aunt, an Army Officer and a nurse who served during the Second World War. Duckworth’s first daughter Abigail was born in 2014 when Duckworth was a U.S. Rep.

Before Duckworth gave birth to Maile, there was speculation about how the new mom would vote — family members were not allowed on the Senate floor.

But after negotiations and a unanimous vote to allow senators to bring infants younger than one into the chamber, the long-standing rules were changed. In April, Maile became the first infant to occupy the Senate floor when Duckworth voted against the confirmation of a NASA administrator.

On the morning of the vote — just days after giving birth — Duckworth posted a photo of Maile’s Senate-debut outfit. “I made sure she has a jacket so she doesn’t violate the Senate floor dress code (which requires blazers),” she tweeted. “I’m not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies, but I think we’re ready.”

Duckworth said she’s not sure when Maile’s next appearance will be, but the Senate schedule will probably dictate the visit.

When asked how she feels about having daughters who will face a future set by a changing lineup in the Supreme Court, Duckworth said her concerns aren’t only over reproductive choice, but votes against provisions in the Affordable Care Act — especially pre-existing conditions.

“I think anybody that is a parent is worried about the recent shift in the Supreme Court,” she said. “It’s not just about my daughters.”

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