Lactation Rooms UW Oshkosh Report
Submitted by the Projects subcommittee of the Gender Equity Council May 7, 2011
A subcommittee of the Gender Equity Council spent the fall of 2010 researching lactation rooms. There are a number of factors that motivated our investigation. First and foremost, statistics show that more women are lactating away from home than ever before, which raises the issue of how best to accommodate their needs. In 2008, 70 percent of working mothers had children under three-years-old and this is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce (Sandler). The number of college students with young children is also growing.
Second, the state of Wisconsin has not met the “healthy people 2010 goal” for the percentage of women breastfeeding their children, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The way to improve these numbers is to make breastfeeding easier and more convenient for new mothers as they attempt to go back to work and school following the birth of their children.
We would also like to add that breastfeeding is a wonderful example of an environmentally sustainable practice, and therefore is in line with UWO’s goals and values in this area.
Finally, we believe that the university should help support breastfeeding students and employees because of the enormous cost-savings that can result from breastfeeding (as opposed to using expensive infant formula).
These proven benefits of providing lactation rooms will be supplemented by the marketing potential of a UWO that is family-friendly, as measured by its availability of lactation rooms for new mothers, whether employees or students. This campus improvement fits well with our current mission as we seek to expand the childcare center on campus and reach out to more non-traditional students and the combination of the three initiatives at once will result in an enhanced image of the university.
In the midst of compiling information about spaces, including restrooms, that could be utilized as lactation rooms, we learned that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in March 2010 now requires employers to “provide breastfeeding employees with reasonable break time and a private place—not the ladies’ room—to express breast milk during the workday until a child’s first birthday” (Sandler).
The University of Wisconsin is currently in compliance with this law, as there are three lactation rooms on campus and a fourth that will be available when Sage Hall opens in fall 2011. Two of the spaces currently being used for this purpose are in the Student Success Center. Room 115 in the Student Success Center is a designated lactation room, and room 273 is a general room that can be used for this purpose as long as a student reserves the room with the front desk staff. Additionally, there is a lactation room in the Women’s Center on campus (Campus Center for Equity and Diversity, room 20C).
However, while the university is technically in compliance with the law, we feel strongly that more can and should be done to provide additional lactation rooms to not only UWO employees, but also to students.
Why the university should create additional lactation rooms:
It takes, on average, 30-45 minutes to disrobe, pump, clean and store equipment and re-dress. Given this, it becomes quickly apparent that a 10-15 minute walk, each way, to a lactation room is highly undesirable for the lactating mother, whether she is a student or instructor attempting to pump between classes, or an employee who has to take time away from her desk or other duties to pump. For those that do choose to walk to an existing lactation room on campus, it can often be a challenge lugging around a pump, tubing and bottles (approximately 2-3 lbs.), and an insulated bag with ice packs to keep milk fresh, as well as other frequently carried items such as purses, books, laptops, etc. This can be made even more inconvenient and challenging during the harsh Wisconsin winters.
It is also clear to see how highly undesirable this situation is from the perspective of supervisors of classified staff and non-instructional academic staff. If the employee has to walk 10-15 minutes, each way, to a lactation room, the time away from one’s duties could quickly add up to an hour.
In short, it is in the university’s best interests (as well as students’ and employees’) to add additional lactation rooms, as it will significantly cut down on the amount of time it takes to pump. Put another way, for some women, the issue of accessibility may be the deciding factor in whether/how long they continue to breast feed their child. Given the overwhelming evidence on the merits of breastfeeding, it is all the more important for the university to take a pro-active stance in encouraging new mothers to pump after returning to work and/or school.
In addition to the legal basis, the societal push for improving the working environment for new mothers and UWO’s goal of improving diversity on campus and enhancing the student experience lead us to recommend the following:
- Increasing the number of lactation rooms on campus, with emphasis being paid to location. As a short-term goal, we are suggesting the addition of a lactation room on the north side of campus, in either Arts and Communication or Halsey. The current lactation rooms are concentrated on the south side of campus, while the one that will become available in Sage Hall will be on the west side of campus. Attached you will find the American Institute for Architects’ guidelines for lactation rooms.
- Adequate marketing to inform students and employees (both current and prospective) of their options regarding lactation rooms on campus.
- The long-term goal is to have a lactation room in each building. This process will be greatly facilitated by the fact that this is a time of huge growth and movement on campus. For example, space is currently available in Dempsey as a result of the recent opening of the Student Success Center. The fall 2011 opening of Sage Hall will leave space open in Clow Classroom and Clow Faculty. Also, the future move of the Childcare Center and Lifelong Learning & Community Engagement will free up space in Swart as well as additional space in Dempsey.
Centers for Disease Control. “Breastfeeding Report Card, United States: Outcome Indicators.” 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard2.htm
Sandler, Lauren. “The Mother of All Office Dramas”. BusinessWeek, May 17, 2010.
U.S. Department of Labor. “Frequently Asked Questions—Break Time for Nursing Mothers.” http://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/faqBTNM.htm
U.S Department of Labor. “Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.” http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.htm
York, Liz. Lactation Room Design. American Institute for Architects Best Practices. February, 2008.