U moms could get more resources

A U Senate vote may bring more lactation rooms to campus.

Roy Aker

New mothers at the University of Minnesota could soon get more resources on campus.

The University Senate passed a resolution at its Thursday meeting that could increase the number of lactation rooms and centralize resources for those at the University who are breastfeeding children.

The resolution, which was proposed by the Social Concerns Committee, calls for the University to review existing lactation resources and investigate how to improve them.

Susan Warfield, the University’s Student Parent HELP Center director, said lactation resources have been an ongoing issue for students and faculty.

Warfield said some nursing women at the University have resorted to pumping breast milk or feeding their babies in bathroom stalls or empty parking ramps because of the lack of access to lactation space.

A 2012 Student Parent HELP Center survey found that half of respondents who had given birth in the last three years stopped breastfeeding because they didn’t have space to do so, according to the senate resolution.

Economics senior Hannah Wolf said finding a place to nurse her 11-month-old on campus is harder than it should be.

Wolf said she only knows about lactation rooms on campus because a friend told her about them.

“I think maybe it’s something people still feel uncomfortable talking about, so needs are left unmet,” she said.

Dave Golden, SCC committee chairman and Boynton Health Service public health and communications director, said the lack of resources for new mothers affects faculty members as well as students.

“It’s very difficult to continue breastfeeding and work unless there’s some kind of accommodations made for the mother to express milk,” he said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the University will be required to provide a “reasonable break time” for new mothers to express breast milk for a year after their child’s birth and a private place other than a bathroom to do so, according to the bill’s text.

Peg Lonnquist, University Women’s Center director, said although Minnesota law requires lactation space to be within a “reasonable distance” from employees, it doesn’t specify the amount of
distance.

Golden said the new resolution requests that University administrators designate a committee to work on getting and maintaining more lactation space and informing new mothers about the spaces.

For years, Warfield said, individual University colleges, offices and buildings had unofficial lactation spaces that weren’t well-known around campus.

“No one ever got the word out, and no one was consistently tracking any of this,” Warfield said.

University President Eric Kaler’s office has requested additional information regarding the resolution’s specifics. Kaler must approve the resolution before any policy changes are officially implemented, Golden
said.

Currently, Warfield said, 14 lactation rooms exist across the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, but the University’s Office of Human Resources only publicizes 11 of them on its website.

Warfield said lactation spaces aren’t evenly spread across campus, leaving some areas without them.

Wolf said she would like to see more lactation rooms on campus, especially in St. Paul.

“Going to school and raising a child at the same time is very difficult,” she said, “so providing resources for new parents makes the situation a lot easier.”