In supporting students as they make the transition to campus life and beyond, officials at some colleges recognize that students may be transitioning into motherhood as well.
Women now make up 71 percent of student parents, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.
An influx of students who have recently become mothers on four-year and community college campuses creates an increasing need for well-equipped, standardized lactation stations.
While most higher ed institutions are in compliance with the 2010 update of the Fair Labor Act and provide staff with a designated area to express milk, there is a large variation in these accommodations for students.
“A lot of these community issues have more shared responsibility. However, securing a lactation space completely falls onto a mother during the most challenging time of her life, as she is responding to several new situations,” says Joyce Lee, a researcher on a recent study of lactation policies and facilities on 114 college campuses.
While a list of available amenities on college websites is helpful, including lactation spaces on all campus maps helps mothers more carefully plan their schedules, adds Lee, who works as a LEED Fellow at UPenn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives & Urban Health Lab.
The convenience of these areas is imperative to their success, as is the equipment available to nursing moms, says Diane Spatz, professor of nutrition and faculty advisor with UPenn’s School of Nursing.
A hospital-grade pump can express milk in 10 minutes, as opposed to the 25 minutes usually needed for personal pumps, for example.
Machine efficiency and the ease of only carrying pump attachments help women to more easily navigate their days while continuing to reap the benefits of breastfeeding. A full-length mirror, fridge, microwave and sink are all useful to nursing women.
From a design standpoint, discreet amenities, welcoming lighting and art help to create a positive experience for lactation-space users.
A variety of campus departments generally provide input on lactation-space planning. Representatives from human resources, faculty senate, the finance department and university council all have a stake in the issue, with facilities administration typically leading the planning.
“Accommodating nursing mothers is another level of support, and it helps to lead to positive outcomes, such as retention,” says Lee.