What Is a Lactation Room?

This is a necessary employee perk for working breastfeeding moms

Breast pump and bottle of breast milk near computer
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A lactation room in its simplest form is a private space where a nursing mother can express breast milk for her baby. In some companies, working moms use their private offices as lactating rooms, and either lock their doors or put up privacy signs so nobody walks into the room while the woman's breasts are exposed. In others, the employer creates a separate space where new moms can pump breast milk in private. This may be due to the predominance of cubicle farms among that employer's workforce, or simply for the convenience of employees.

Under U.S. law, employers must provide a lactation room for a new mother to use for pumping breast milk. A bathroom isn't suitable for this purpose; it simply isn't sanitary to express milk alongside toilets and all the germs they contain. Moreover, the lactation station must be private and shielded from view of other employees or the general public.

Additionally, employers must give breastfeeding mothers appropriate breaks from their work day in order to travel to the lactation room and take the time needed to pump milk. Typically, a new mom returning to work with an infant at home needs to express breast milk two or three times in every eight-hour period of the day. As your baby grows older and begins to eat solid food, you most likely will pump less milk and be able to go longer between pumping sessions.

In order to further assist nursing mothers, support can be provided through literature in this room or even better, direct access to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who is a credentialed health professional specialized in breastfeeding. They could answer any breastfeeding questions the new nursing mom may have or even speak with someone who is pregnant.

A lactation room should contain a comfortable chair for the nursing mother to sit in and a flat surface to place a breast pump upon. While not required by law, employers might also consider providing an electrical outlet, a breast pump, a sink, a small refrigerator for storing breast milk, and interior decorations that create the relaxed environment that nursing moms need to let down their milk and experience a productive, full pumping session.

If there is a large number of nursing mothers, a schedule can be made so that no one tries to access the room while it's already in use. A whiteboard could be posted in the room, a private online calendar could be created, or an email alias could be used in case someone needs to inform others of their changing pumping needs.

If you work for an employer with more than 50 employees, by law you are entitled to access to a lactation room if you are breastfeeding a baby. Perhaps you are the first woman to give birth since the law changed requiring lactation rooms. You can be a necessary agent of change by raising the issue in a positive way and helping your employer set up a lactation room that serves the needs of the employer, employee, and infants, both yours and those yet to be born.