Monday, January 3, 2011

Lactation Rooms

The New York Times has a great article on the relatively new "lactation suites" at our nation's Capitol.  Apparently they're one of the few bipartisan meeting places there!

I've had what I imagine is a fairly typical experience with trying to pump breastmilk at work: lots of people have good intentions to help, but it's been quite difficult at times.  

Stanford's medical school has a brand new, enormous, beautiful building called the Li Ka Shing Center.  Unfortunately, when it was being set up, someone forgot that half of the population can have babies, that those babies need breast milk, and that breast milk often needs to be pumped while women are at work and school--so when it opened, there was no designated space for pumping.

"What's the big deal?"  you might think.  Why can't you just use the restroom?  Well, aside from the small matter of hygiene (you don't prepare your meals in the bathroom), the bathrooms in the new medical school building only have power outlets right next to the sink.  Out of desperation, I did stand next to the sink once to pump, and just winced every time someone walked in--but that was pretty bad.  Unlike when you're nursing a baby, your breasts are quite exposed when you're pumping, and if you're like me, you feel utterly ridiculous.  So you actually appreciate a good amount of privacy.

Eventually an empty breakroom was designated as the place to pump.  Unfortunately, the room is locked, and they won't give me a key.  So I have to request a key from someone every time I need to pump (every few hours).  This is bad for several reasons:

1)  Going to get the key and then give it back adds (in the best scenario) about 5 minutes to a process that you really want to be as quick as possible.

2)  Frequently the person with the key is not available; either they've stepped away from their desk, or it's lunch time, or it's after 5 pm.  This can mean spending extra time--up to 15 minutes chasing various people down--to find someone else with a key...or that I'm just out of luck.

3)  Finally, during the many times I've had to run around explaining to various people that I needed to get into this room to pump breastmilk, I've realized that it's pretty demeaning to have to ask permission to do this.  I shouldn't have to ask permission, nor should I have to explain to 3 or 4 people what I need the key for every time I need it.

The other non-ideal feature of this room is that the lights are on a motion detector timer--which is set to turn off every 15 seconds if you're not walking around.  Since the room doesn't have windows, this means that you're plunged into darkness every 15 seconds, at which point you have to stand up--still pumping--to get the lights to turn back on.

It's been 6 months since I first requested a space for pumping, and 3 months since the situation has been this particular locked room.  Not ideal.  So what are the ideal features for a lactation room?  Chime in in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is frustrating. I went to a conference at UCSF and was able to use their lactation rooms in Genentech Hall. SO nice! I saw at least two lactation rooms in that one building; each room has hospital grade pumps (you just bring the personal parts), comfortable chairs and tables, privacy curtains, a fridge, sink, bulletin board with pictures of the babes. And, relevant to this post, a digital keypad entry, so you just need a code rather than a physical key.