By Viviana Vidal
KU currently has two lactation rooms located in Stratton Administration Center and Lytle hall. These lactation rooms provide a place for student and faculty mothers to pump on campus throughout the day. The problem is that not everyone knows they exist.
Vice Chair on The Status of Commission of Women, Dr. Emily Cripe, heard about these rooms and decided to investigate. As a new mother, she noticed a key problem: the ‘rooms’ were previously restrooms and were less than inviting for one to pump comfortably.
“You wouldn’t want to eat your lunch in a restroom, so you probably wouldn’t want to be preparing your baby’s lunch in a restroom,” said Cripe.
Both spaces provide the bare minimum of what is legally required under Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
This act, passed in March of 2010, requires employers to provide a place other than a bathroom or locker room that is shielded from view and free from intrusion, to be used by an employee to extract breast milk.
Cripe reached out to Jacqueline C. Fox, Esq, assistant director of Social Equity & Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Sharon Picus, executive director of Human Resources, to see how the issue could be amended.
“Both rooms will be getting new furniture. A recliner and table are ordered for each room and we will be looking to add some other touches, as appropriate, to make the spaces warmer and more welcoming, like a throw rug and perhaps a bulletin board,” said Picus.
She said, “The Lytle room will be getting an external lock for swipe card access, which the Admin room already has. That project is approved, funded and scheduled with an anticipated completion by the end of March.”
The room in Stratton is functional, but not ideal. A project request to remove the existing partitions and to cap the existing, but non-functioning plumbing fixtures has been submitted/approved but currently there is no timeline on when that will happen.
In addition to the rooms in Stratton and Lytle Hall, Picus anticipates a third room to be available by the fall of 2016. The room is said to be located on the second floor of Old Main.
“Due to the efforts of the Commission, the university is now outfitting the rooms with comfortable chairs, locks, etc. to make them more useful and welcoming for mothers who might need them,” said Cripe.
Fox said, “The Department of Human Resources will include information about the lactation rooms on their webpage. Additionally, I have already been contacted by the Potty Paper to provide information for inclusion in their publications.”
Upon returning from work once a child is born, adequate time and a comfortable environment are vital to extract milk in order to support the needs of the child and new mother.