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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lactation Rooms in the Workplace

I interviewed 17 working moms in higher education to examine if they are able to achieve a balance between their professional objectives and family life. Several questions were asked including establishing lactation rooms in the workplace. 

(Q) Does your institution have policies that assist working mothers with taking time off or provide on-site nurseries, lactation rooms, etc.?

(A) Three mothers praised their institutions for having lactation rooms on campus. One mother replied: “There is only one designated lactation room (that I know of) on campus.  It’s in our new law building.  I was lucky to have supervisors who supported my pumping milk, which I did successfully with my two children, from when I returned to work at 3 to12 months with each child.“

(A) Another mother stated: “I was lucky to have my own office and understanding co-workers so that I could "pump", but there is absolutely nothing helpful on campus for others who don't have a private office. A colleague down the hall had to sit in a locked storage closet on boxes. Even my own office is open to a busy hallway, so people would knock on the door even with curtains drawn, recycling staff would unlock the door and find me attached to a pump when I was pumping before a late meeting. Just not a good scene for lactation!”
(F) The 1992 Family Medical and Medical Leave Act allows mothers with newborns to take 12 weeks of paid leave. Some employers also will allow mothers to have flexible work schedules. Finding ways to accommodate mothers (i.e., lactation rooms) permits them not to feel so alienated in the workplace. ‘Nora,’ an associate director at a Northeastern university told me, “I was able to work part-time from home during my last month of maternity leave.  When I came back to work full-time, I was able to telecommute two days a week.  I’m transitioning to telecommuting one day a week now.  Being able to telecommute is wonderful, because I’m still nursing and it gives me a chance to pump and nurse while I’m at home, so that I can maintain my milk supply.”

My colleague and I returned from maternity leave about the same time, and I was finding it difficult to pump in the ladies’ room.  In an effort to make it easier for other new moms, we approached the vice president of our institution and requested the establishment of a lactation room. The university responded positively by creating a comfortable private room. A working mother’s support group was also started on campus—a coalition of expectant, new and seasoned moms that promotes the balancing of professional careers and raising happy, healthy children. Each month moms are invited to join a brown-bag lunch, and are encouraged to talk about challenges of work and motherhood. This outlet has been extremely beneficial for all moms who have participated.

Excerpt from "Working Moms: Finding a Balance Between Work and Motherhood."  SACRAO Journal, volume 23, pp. 5-10.

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