New nursing room opens on St. Paul campus

by Sean Madigan

Nursing mothers on the St. Paul campus no longer must retreat into toilet stalls or travel to Boynton Health Service to extract breast milk during the work day.
Boynton, with grants from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Commission on Women, opened a new nursing mothers room this week in Coffey Hall on the St. Paul campus.
Mothers will find a clean and private place to pump and store breast milk. The nursing room, when fully operational, will include a motorized breast pump, a refrigerator, a compact disc player, reading material and a large comfortable chair.
Kitty Bell, certified lactation consultant and project director, said the three nursing mothers rooms throughout campus provide affirmation of breast feeding’s importance.
“A relatively small University investment makes a huge difference in people’s lives,” said Rachel Budelsky, Ph.D student in Conservation Biology and a new mother. Budelsky said she believes breast feeding provides a nutritional and natural alternative to formula. She added that she anxiously awaits using a fully equipped nursing room.
Budelsky will begin working full-time on the St. Paul campus this summer. She must pump breast milk two or three times a day, and said the proximity of the nursing room to her work place is convenient.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises women to breast-feed infants for more than one year.
However, Bell said only 20 to 22 percent of Minnesota women breast-feed for the first six months. Bell attributes the low numbers to women quickly returning to work after their pregnancies.
Many women find returning to work and spending 20 to 30 minutes pumping breast milk in a bathroom stall or storing breast milk in lunch room refrigerators intimidating, Bell said.
Employers must be understanding of nursing mothers’ needs and make further efforts to accommodate them, she added.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill in April amending a 1996 law requiring employers to better suit nursing mothers’ needs.
Employers must grant mothers reasonable unpaid break time each day to pump breast milk for their children. They are also required to provide a private room, other than a toilet stall, where a mother can pump her breast milk in private.
The amendment also confirms that breast-feeding in public does not constitute indecent exposure.
Bell is pleased with the University’s efforts, but thinks more could be done. She said she wishes there were a facility on the West Bank because travelling across campus in a reasonable time frame is difficult for nursing mothers.