Why Do You Need a Lactation Room?

Offering a mommy room can be beneficial to both employers and employees – a true win-win.  Pumpatwork.com was created to be your primary resource for setting up a lactation room, or nursing room, at your workplace.  Providing a nursing room for a lactating employee makes complete business sense.  It allows moms to remain productive and contribute fully to their job.  Some moms may even return to work a bit earlier than if they weren’t able to pump at work.

Breastfed babies are also healthier, which in turn can help reduce your medical insurance costs over the long run.  Studies also show reduced cancer risks for women who breastfeed for 6 months or longer ~ another long-term positive benefit for both employers and employees.  Of course, the improved moral when employees feel their employers care about their needs has a lot of value as well.  I could espouse for hours on the benefits to the employer for having a nursing room, but I’d like to dive right into how to put the designs into action.

A nursing mother needs to retreat to a quiet, closed room for collecting expressed milk several times over the course of a day. She needs a calm restful environment with all the required elements for an efficient and safe pumping session.  Based on my personal experience and research, I have decided to build this site to help employers know what is required for lactation room design.

Is a nursing room required? How do you know if you have to provide a lactation room for your employees?  According to federal legislation passed in early 2010, modifying the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 an employer shall be required to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.  An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to these requirements, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.

Size – a lactation room should have a minimum footprint of 7 feet by 7 feet, allowing for a 5-foot radius circle with 24-inch deep counters on two walls. Other configurations such as 10 feet by 5 feet work well, too.

Privacy – I can’t stress enough how important this is.  The most basic thing when it comes to privacy is providing a lock on the door.  This sounds obvious, but I have used plenty of non-locking mommy rooms.  Trust me, walking in on a pumping mother is not something anyone wants.  The best locks are the indicator dead bolts that display an “occupied” message to discourage interruptions.  Another concern when it comes to privacy is the location of the mommy room.  Some offices have a small tucked away office that gets very little foot traffic that serves as the mommy room.  This is much preferred over a lactation room smack dab in the middle of the busiest part of the facility.  Finally, think about how the mom is going to access the room.  I’ve been in very male-dominated offices where I had to ask the all-male security staff for a key to the mommy room every time I needed to pump.  This could be intimidating for some moms, to the point that they would rather not pump at all.  Actual and perceived privacy are both important to nursing moms.

Access – The privacy section hints at access, but it’s worth a closer inspection.  Don’t assume that everyone that uses your mommy room will be your employee.  I’ve used plenty of mommy rooms at vendor locations.  It is important that the front desk staff know if you provide a mommy room and where it is located.  I recently pumped at a new location and I had to talk to no less than 4 people to find out where to pump.  As one guard said “I know they used to have a room, but I am not sure if they still do now that they remodeled”.  There was definitely an opportunity here for better communication.

Scheduling – Make sure moms have the opportunity to reserve time in the mommy room.  There are several ways to do this.  You can offer a sign-up sheet on the door so moms can pick the time they need.  You can also consider entering the room in your corporate scheduling system, such as Microsoft Outlook.  Consider the amount of traffic you will get and who will be using it.  If it’s pretty much only internal employees, you may be fine with an online calendar.  If you expect to have a lot of outside traffic, you might consider a paper or whiteboard calendar.  Many nursing moms try to pump at the same time every day, especially if they have strict break times.  There is nothing worse that getting to the mommy room only to realize that it’s booked.  This could easily through off a nursing moms calendar for the entire afternoon.  As an employer, you also don’t want to worry about lost time from moms constantly going back and forth to see if the room is open.

Sound Privacy:  Pumps can be noisy so sound dampening is important to achieve comfort for mothers and for workers around the lactation room.  For the privacy of nursing moms and to minimum sound transmission, walls should reach up to the structure above.  Install sound attenuation in walls to minimize sound transmission.  Install fabric panels, curtains, carpeting, or other sound-dampening materials to minimize echoes.

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