University mothers milk benefits of nursing room

by Joel Sawyer

In an effort to accommodate students, faculty and staff members who want to feed breast milk to their newborns, Boynton Health Services has opened a new nursing mothers room in its Women’s Clinic.
The facility, which opened in March, is the third nursing mothers room to open at the University since 1995. The other rooms are in Weaver-Densford Hall, and the West Bank Office Building.
The rooms provide a clean, comfortable and private place where women can pump their breasts for milk to take home to their infants, said Beth Davidann, a lactation consultant and graduate student in the School of Nursing.
Diana Fernandez, a post-doctoral fellow in the epidemiology department in the School of Public Health, said without the mothers’ room on the West Bank, she would not have breastfed her baby for more than the six weeks she had for maternity leave.
“Not being able to breast-feed my baby would have been very stressful and psychologically disturbing to me,” she said.
Davidann, who works at the Weaver-Densford Hall room, said it is important for mothers to feed their babies breast milk rather than synthetic or cows’ milk. “Breast milk makes much more healthy babies. Our milk is species specific. It’s made to be just exactly what our babies need. Cows’ milk is not. Cows’ milk is for cows.”
Boynton Health Registered Nurse and lactation consultant Kitty Bell agreed with Davidann and added, “Clearly, there are huge benefits to babies who get breast milk. Synthetic formula is not an adequate substitute.”
Bell, who coordinates the nursing room at Boynton, said breast-fed babies have fewer doctors’ visits and have fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
Davidann said the public needs to be aware that more than babies benefit from breast-feeding. Health benefits for the mother include weight loss after birth and possible reduced risk of breast cancer, she said. Davidann added that working mothers’ productivity increases and they miss less work if they breast-feed their babies.
The nursing mothers room program was organized by Davidann, Bell and School of Nursing professor Laura Duckett last year after they discovered a widespread need for such facilities.
With University support from the Women’s Center and Commission on Women, grant money was secured to purchase equipment and set up the rooms in Weaver-Densford Hall and Boynton Health Services. The space in the West Bank Office Building was given by the epidemiology department.
The rooms at Boynton and Weaver-Densford Hall are equipped with electric breast pumps, refrigerators to store milk and comfortable furniture. Women who use the West Bank facility have to provide their own equipment.
Since the rooms opened, more than 60 women have used the facilities more than 2,000 times.
Before the nursing room in Weaver-Densford Hall opened, Davidann said, women were pumping their breasts in restrooms. “And of course we don’t fix any other family members’ food in the bathroom,” Davidann said.
University academic adviser Sandi Sibley Gerick, who has used the nursing room at Boynton twice a day since March, has used public restrooms in the past. “It’s a very unpleasant experience sitting in a toilet stall in a relatively grubby bathroom with no privacy,” she said.
In order to use the nursing rooms, women must go through an orientation session to learn about the facilities and their equipment.
Bell said efforts are underway to open more nursing mothers rooms on campus in the future.