Breastfeeding moms who delay their education because of the lack of space or privacy to feed their babies no longer have to worry.
Starting in the fall of 2012, Edmonds Community College launched a pilot program for a lactation room on campus for the convenience of breastfeeding moms. Located in Brier Hall 246, the lactation room is a private, cozy setting, where breastfeeding moms can go to tend to their babies in a relaxing environment without the fear of being interrupted.
Breastfeeding moms, who need this service, should go to the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership (CSEL) office located in Brier 252, and schedule an appointment.
The project idea was initially brought up by Kristina Madden, a former student at EdCC. Madden was a mother of three and her biggest challenge was juggling her school and schedule as a breastfeeding, working mother of three.
In the beginning of fall 2011 she took her idea to the Executive Board who turned her to the Committee of Student Services and Facilities.
Jennifer Delia, Executive Officer for Diversity, was chairing that committee. Being pregnant at that time, she was very open to the idea and immediately started the process of looking into a space for the lactation room. After extensive searching, surveys and an agreement with the Board, a decision was made to launch a pilot program for the duration of one year.
One of the study rooms in the Triton Student Center was changed into a lactation room funded by the Campus Green Team. Madden and Felicia Cain, part-time staff of the Running Start Office and pregnant mom, furnished the room together spending just a little under three thousand dollars. The room includes a hospital grade pump provided from Snohomish County.
Madden’s involvement in this project was dedicated and extensive. She studied about the immunobiology of breast milk in her honors classes and worked as a breastfeeding peer counselor at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The idea for the lactation room was originally brought up from a public health perspective.
Whether one breastfeeds or bottle feeds their baby, is a mother’s choice, but the health benefits from breastfeeding are many.
Breast milk has antibodies and other ingredients that protect the baby from illness, feeds the baby’s brain, giving the baby a strong immune system, and prepares it for a lifetime of healthy digestion. (Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington)
In addition to helping the baby, breastfeeding has many benefits to the mother as well, including lowering the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancer. It also burns calories helping the mother to return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster. (Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington)
The idea to create a lactation room on campus was done to provide opportunities for breastfeeding moms to able to breastfeed and continue with their education, but it was also done with all these health benefits in mind.
Cain wants to primarily help improve the education about lactation and health by forming committees with the students, faculty and staff so that ultimately more women will breastfeed.
“That’s kind of the overall goal. Not just increase the usage of the room, which is hopefully a side-effect of more women breastfeeding.” Cain said.
Apart from helping the infant and mother from breastfeeding, there is an impact on the population as a whole when a mother chooses to breastfeed.
According to a statement from a 2010 study in the “Pediatrics” journal, “U.S. could save $13 billion annually in medical and other costs if 90 percent of families breastfed their infants exclusively for six months.”
Based on this study, one can see that breastfeeding is a much cheaper option, not just for the family, but for the entire population.
“It’s more sustainable as well,” Delia said. “Not all of them [women] can breastfeed for whatever reason, but if more women could try to breastfeed, then that’s going to have a big impact on the Earth.”
As of now, there are only about three to five regular women who use the room. Though more women are using the room every quarter, there are still many breastfeeding moms on campus that they feel they are not reaching.
Cain believes that this due to a combination of things, one of them being that many moms still don’t know about it.
Delia explains that they have done several events, and worked on increasing signage, but she believes that having people spread the word is what will really help get more moms to the lactation room.
One of the other problems that Cain believes there is is that there is probably a misunderstanding about what exactly a lactation room is and the benefits of breastfeeding, and why one should support it.
Through the committee that Cain wants to form, she hopes to get a good group of individuals, mothers who support breastfeeding and understand its benefits, to help educate the EdCC community about the lactation room and the benefits of breastfeeding through meetings and other such events.
As of now Delia is working hard towards convincing the board to extend the pilot program for the lactation room for one more year, hoping by then to have reached out to more breastfeeding moms or even bottle feeding moms who want to try the alternative with the given opportunity.
The opening of the lactation room has had positive responses not only at EdCC but other colleges as well.
After the publicity of EdCC’s lactation room in the Everett Herald, Everett Community College has opened up a lactation room on their campus. Other colleges have contacted EdCC, seeking more information about this room, leaving a much needed positive impact on a community college level.
According to Delia, UW has 15 lactation rooms. But for a university it doesn’t seem to be unusual.
“It seems that looking at other universities; it’s not uncommon to see lactation rooms for students and staff.” Cain said. “[But] it seems uncommon on a community college level, which doesn’t make sense since there are more moms going to community colleges to further their education.”
When asked through a survey about the lactation room services, one young woman commented how she would have delayed her education for two years if this service wasn’t provided.
“It’s an educational barrier.” Delia said regarding this instance.
She emphasizes the importance of having a support system for breastfeeding moms. It’s a full load for those moms who have to breastfeed every two to three hours and trying to manage their school work amidst this.
Getting the support from the workplace, school, and the community is crucial.
“We have support for all the different diverse populations on campus and breastfeeding moms are a diverse population.” Delia said. “They don’t represent every person, but they’re out there.”
Published in The Triton Review, Vol. 29, Issue 3, May 27, 2013
Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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