Dec. 4, 2017Vol. 48, Issue 3

Supporting Nursing Mothers

Chico State Designates Lactation Rooms for New Program

There are a total of five assigned lactation rooms on campus, located in: Meriam Library (2 rooms), Kendall Hall, Aymer J. Hamilton, and Holt Hall. Additionally, the Accessibility Resource Center, located in the Student Services Center, and the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center, located in Bell Memorial Union, are welcoming spaces. 

“We can do better.”

One strong statement from Dylan Saake urged Chico State to take a hard look at the support being given to nursing mothers on campus, and it wasn’t enough.

For decades, women were relegated to their own devices to find a private place to express breast milk, whether breast-feeding or pumping. Those with campus connections or offices to themselves had access, but others were left to seek out inconvenient or awkward spaces to fulfill their basic need of feeding their baby.

Then, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) required the University to provide allocated break times and locations for which nursing employees may express breast milk. Yet, users found a big gap between effective accommodations and practicality. Nursing parents would have to ask someone to clear a space with a locking door so they could use it or walk across campus to the child development lab in Aymer J. Hamilton to use its lactation room—the one space designated on campus.

After a nursing parent visiting campus asked to use an office in HR, it dawned on Saake, director of labor relations and compliance and Title IX coordinator, and other members of the Human Resources Service Center that managing compliance on a case-by-case basis didn’t provide the support that nursing mothers deserved—regardless whether they were an employee, student, or visitor.

“[Human Resources] had a visitor who needed a nursing space and we were able to make it work because we had an office that locked,” Saake said. “So we made it work, but we had to make it happen on the fly, and we really wanted to just to do better than that.”

Each private locking room offers a comfortable chair, electrical outlet, table, sink located in or near the room, and good lighting and ventilation to ensure mothers are comfortable while nursing or pumping.

Each private locking room offers a comfortable chair, electrical outlet, table, sink located in or near the room, and good lighting and ventilation to ensure mothers are comfortable while nursing or pumping.

Shortly after, the development of designated lactation spaces across campus began. 

In fall 2016, Saake and student employee Carolina Orihuela (BS, Business Administration, ’17) proposed their Lactation Support Program to the Space Allocation Committee. They were determined to put a number of rooms in each quadrant of campus to make it easier for nursing mothers to access privacy and comfort when they need to express breast milk.

“Space is never an easy subject matter on a campus because it’s at such a premium,” Saake said but noted people were supportive right away.

As soon as word about the lactation support program spread, departments were reaching out to offer spaces that could be converted into designated rooms.

“The Holt [Hall] location really came from that,” Saake said. “Someone said, ‘Hey we heard about this and we have this space as well.’

After ensuring it met requirements, that space was added to the list and the team kept looking for more.

Patrick Newell, dean of Meriam Library, said he recognized the library was an ideal space for those spending long hours on campus—especially students. So he volunteered two third floor spaces that were essentially unused areas adjacent to women’s restrooms.

“We did minor remodels and the library paid for it,” Newell said. “It just makes sense.”

Providing such spaces for nursing mothers was long overdue. When Newell first arrived at Chico State almost two years ago he immediately added that to his list of necessary changes to bring the library into the 21st century—or at least closer to it.

“When I got here [from Fresno State], I thought, ‘What do we need to do to bring this place into the late 1990s?’” he said, only half-joking. “These [rooms] should have been here a long time ago.”

The library’s renovations took place this summer and cost about $11,500, which included design expenses, construction, and required inspections. The conversions for the other rooms cost mere pennies, and brought the campus total to five assigned lactation rooms and two welcoming spaces—and that’s just the start. Per CSU policy, lactation rooms will be included in any new campus building, including the forthcoming science building that’s replacing Siskiyou Hall.

The screen on the first floor of Meriam Library displays information for students, employees, and visitors to find the third floor lactation rooms.

The screen on the first floor of Meriam Library displays information for students, employees, and visitors to find the third floor lactation rooms.

Saake hopes that additional existing spaces will be offered now that he, Orihuela, and his team have put the word out and designed a checklist for what is required and recommended.

“It’s just a matter of finding them,” he said.

Study Abroad and International Exchange Coordinator Jennifer Gruber is the mother of two boys, ages 3 years and 7 months. She said she pumps milk up to three times a day for her youngest, and said she is lucky to have a private office with a locking door and a place to store the milk. Otherwise, she would do whatever she needed to keep nursing.

She knows moms who are working or in class all day need and deserve the ability to take a break to pump without worrying where to go, regardless of their role on campus

“The more resources, the better. . . . You have to think about students who are new moms who are trying to continue pursuing their education and giving them a space,” she said. “We also have to consider visitors to campus.”

It’d be great if the University had a campus map that identified the spaces, Gruber said, noting such a document really helped her when visiting Sacramento State a few years ago while still nursing her first born.

Saake is open to it. After all, “we can do better.”

For more information on the Lactation Support Program and location accommodations, visit the webpage or call the Human Resources Service Center at 530-898-6771.

Troy Jollimore, Philosophy, had his article, published in the text Melville Among the Philosophers.

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