Emory Report
September 6, 2005
Volume 58, Number 2


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September 6 , 2005
Nursing mothers have new campus resources

BY eric rangus

As part of a campuswide project spearheaded by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), nursing mothers now have five private, accessible rooms across campus where they can express milk for their babies, and plans call for more areas to be added as space becomes available.

The project has been a collaboration among the staff concerns committee of the PCSW, the Center for Women, Human Resources and Mike Mandl, executive vice president for finance and administration.

“I always felt lucky that I had an office I could use after I returned to work,” said PCSW secretary/treasurer Lisa Newbern, mother of a 2-year-old daughter and one of the leaders of the efforts to expand the availability of lactation rooms on campus. “But I also saw that so many people weren’t as fortunate, so I wanted to do what I could to help.”

Newbern is chief of public affairs at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, which houses one of the lactation rooms. Newbern decorated the converted towel room herself, and Yerkes Campus Services staff helped with set up.

In addition to the Yerkes location, Emory has four other lactation rooms spread across campus: the Center for Women, Miller-Ward Alumni House, the Whitehead Building and Woodruff Library. Future plans call for adding lactation rooms so that women would not have to walk more than 10–15 minutes to reach a suitable facility.

The Facilities Management Division of Campus Services requires that all new building programs and any design plans for new capital buildings or major renovations include considerations for lactation rooms.

With lactation rooms becoming more common, nursing mothers will no longer be required to head for bathroom stalls or close their office doors, as Newbern once did, to take care of their business.

“I have heard stories from other women—both funny and embarrassing—about trying not to make a scene while carting a clumsy, whirring machine around, and this room comes as a great relief to me,” said Roz Abero, regional director of development for arts and sciences and a mother-to-be. When the time comes, she’ll be able to walk from her office in the Luce Center to Miller-Ward to use its lactation room.

“I am grateful that I won’t have to struggle to find a comfortable and convenient place to go,” she said.

The PCSW’s staff concerns committee, under the leadership of then-chair Susan Carini, first explored the feasibility of adding lactation rooms last fall. Newbern volunteered to conduct initial research and compiled a list of several schools’ offerings as well as some policies. Historically, Emory has been a leader in providing services to nursing mothers, according to Center for Women director Ali Crown, but had fallen behind in recent years.

Emory’s first “nursing nest” opened in the Center for Women’s trailer in 1997 and moved with the center over to Cox Hall in 2004. Believed to be the first of its kind on a college campus, the “nest”—as it’s called while in use; it serves as a multipurpose/counseling room at other times—was the brainchild of Crown and then-center advisory board chair Marianne Scharbo DeHaan, a former faculty member in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

“It has never gone unused,” said Crown, adding that many of the mom’s utilizing the service are graduate students or postdocs—women who often don’t have offices and needed privacy.

That was the only on-campus room available, though, until February, when the space in Woodruff Library was made available. Since then the PSCW, (led by then-chair Susan Gilbert) and the administration, led by Mandl, have exchanged ideas and policy points, leading up to the current five rooms, which cover the majority of the main campus. HR also contributed, providing funds to purchase breast pumps.

With open rooms at a premium, it has not been easy to find places to design lactation rooms, but that has spurred a lot of creativity.

“We really consider the space to be more of a family room,” said PCSW Chair Allison Dykes. The converted storage area in Miller-Ward sits across the hall from her office, and over the summer employees in the house painted the room and stocked it with comfortable chairs, a sofa, TV/VCR and other amenities. The other lactation rooms are similarly furnished.

“Working parents can bring their children here, even while events are going on,” Dykes continued. True enough, on the shelves are toys and books for children all the way up through elementary school.

The lactation project is far from over. PCSW, led by current staff concerns chair Linda Erhard, is compiling information to better define the needs of women who use the rooms. They are focusing on education about the importance of breast feeding (information is common for mothers when their babies are just born, but it is not as prominent when they return to work), and they are following up with the administration on financing, space availability and extending the project’s reach to other campuses (Briarcliff, Clairmont and Oxford College).

Anyone with a question about the PCSW’s lactation room project is invited to contact the commission at PCSW-PROJECTS@listserv.cc.emory.edu.