Former storage room transformed into lactation room for mothers
Art & Life Editor
Per section seven of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide a private space for employees to express breast milk.
This federal mandate includes that employees must have a reasonable break time for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth and a place that is shielded from view and free of intrusion from the public.
This mandate also states that if the employer employs less than 50 employees, it is not necessary to have a lactation room if it causes substantial expense or difficulty when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business.
St. Louis Community College—Meramec used to have a lactation room for students and faculty but the room did not meet code.
Vice President of Student Affairs Kim Fitzgerald acted to find a space soon after she was notified.
“It only makes sense that we find it [a space] for our students,” Fitzgerald said.
“A space that is designed for the need – not just one that suits the need.” Although Fitzgerald initially planned for the room to replace a staff restroom in Clark Hall, many staff members voiced concerns about getting rid of the restroom, and Fitzgerald allocated space in the Social Science building—a former storage room.
Fitzgerald said that necessary but small changes made the cost of the room minimal.
The room did not need any old walls torn down or new walls built, though it did need furnishing: two chairs for adequate seating, a lamp, a rug and hand sanitizer.
The room has electricity to allow for breast pumps as well as a lock that can be utilized from the interior.
Meramec Nursing Retention Coach Erica Ciarlo said because she is staff and is in a position to do so, she typically uses her office.
Ciarlo’s students do not usually use the room since their breaks from class do not allow enough time for them to do so because of their intensive work, so popping in to the nursing conference room and using that space is much easier for them.
Nesrin Sagnak, a fourth semester nursing program student at Meramec, agreed that it is hard to find the time.
“Sometimes I’m like—should I go to the restroom, or pump, or eat something?” Sagnak said.
“Nursing school is hard and breastfeeding is hard so trying to do both at the same time is difficult.” Sagnak said that sometimes she would go out to her car if she had enough time.
Although finding the time is difficult, it is nice for the college to have a private area since feeding babies by pumping breast milk is a very natural thing, she said.
“I think it’s just such a great resource for students—for nursing mothers, regardless of the location,” Ciarlo said.
The lactation room has been up and running since last fall, Fitzgerald said.
“You would hate to think that simply having to do a natural act would interfere with your education,” Fitzgerald said.
“This hopefully provides them [nursing mothers] with a space where they don’t have to leave campus.”