Nav: Home

College campuses are thinking about lactation spaces -- but could be doing more

March 11, 2019

A college campus may not seem like a place that requires extensive lactation support. But while most undergraduates don't have children, several populations within these higher-education environments—graduate students, faculty, staff, visitors—may need access to breastfeeding and pumping spaces.

Diane Spatz of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has been advocating for and researching the needs of breastfeeding moms for nearly two decades. Most recently, she and colleagues from the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the Center for Public Health Initiatives, both at Penn, and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) turned their attention to the availability of such a resource on college and university campuses.

In a study published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, the researchers found that nearly all of the 105 institutions surveyed had a least one dedicated lactation space. About two-thirds reported having a policy for creating such spaces, but only about a quarter included them in campus construction standards.

"There are many different types of women who may need to access lactation space when they're on a university campus. That's why this work is really cool and so important, because there is definitely a need," says Spatz, a perinatal nursing and nutrition professor at Penn who also runs CHOP's lactation program. "Beyond that, we're getting these ideas into the hands of the people making the decisions about space on campus. On the majority of campuses, no one is thinking about this as a standard."

The project emerged after a student of Spatz's asked 139 universities across the country whether they had lactation policies in place for their students. Just five percent did. So in 2015, when Dare Henry-Moss joined the Penn master's in public health program as a student, the issue was already top of mind for Spatz. The two began working together.

At around the same time, Spatz met Joyce Lee, an architect who teaches at PennDesign and is a faculty advisor at the Wharton School Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. Lee also works closely with SCUP, which expressed interest in pursuing research on the subject. Lee connected everyone and the project came to life, spurred by a mutual excitement for what all parties saw as a crucial yet unexplored topic.

"For so long this type of gender-specific space has not been in any best-practice standards," says Lee, president of design firm IndigoJLD Green Health. "Now we're creating an environment where presidents, provosts, real estate managers, planners, designers can discuss it as a network of health-promoting spaces. An interdisciplinary collaboration is critical to getting this work done."

So, too, are solid numbers, so the research team created a survey that asked participants who on campus was involved in planning for and funding lactation spaces, how many there were, and whether the institution tracked use of the space. They also went further in depth, asking what percentage of the campus population lived or worked within a seven-minute walk of a lactation space, and how many of the rooms had features such as a locking mechanism, a hospital-grade pump, or personal storage for users.

Across the country, representatives from every campus size—"small" schools with fewer than 5,000 undergrads to "very large schools" with more than 30,000—responded. They came from public schools and private, some with graduate divisions, some without. Their responses painted a clear picture about how universities and colleges across the U.S. think about this issue.

Some do more than others, yet even those places already moving forward have room to grow. SCUP and the researchers hope to help in that regard, not simply by publicizing the statistics their work revealed, but also with a resource page they created that lives on the SCUP website. "Now there's a place where a campus administrator interested in doing more can go," Spatz says. "This is often looked at from a human resources standpoint, as an employee benefit, but it's not just that. It's a bigger-picture item."

It's all in the name of making the process a little simpler for breastfeeding moms. "I've said this before. I've said it a million times. All the onus is on the woman to figure it out herself," Spatz says. "Moms shouldn't have to work so hard to be able to meet their personal breastfeeding goals. We need to make it easier."
-end-
Diane Spatz is a professor of perinatal nursing and the Helen M. Shearer Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She is also a nurse researcher and manager of the lactation program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dare Henry-Moss is an adjunct fellow at the Center for Public Health Initiatives. She was formerly a research coordinator for the Perelman School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and earned her master's in public health from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017.

Joyce Lee is president of design firm IndigoJLD Green Health and has taught at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a faculty advisor at the Wharton School Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. Kathleen Benton of the Society for College and University Planning also collaborated on the paper.

University of Pennsylvania

Related Breastfeeding Articles:

Is it safe to vape while breastfeeding?
Findings from a new animal study suggest that maternal nicotine exposure during breastfeeding could be linked to problems with skull and face development.
Breastfeeding benefits during COVID-19
While the current coronavirus pandemic continues to affect all people, families will still give birth and bring new life into the world.
Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.
Coronavirus treatment and risk to breastfeeding women
Little data is available about the ability of antiviral drugs used to treat COVID-19, coronavirus, to enter breastmilk, let alone the potential adverse effects on breastfeeding infants.
Managing cannabis use in breastfeeding women
As more states legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis use and increasingly decriminalize cannabis, the risk to the growth and development of breastfeeding infants whose mothers use cannabis becomes a growing public health concern.
New recommendations released on bedsharing to promote breastfeeding
Leading experts representing The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) have released new evidence-based recommendations regarding the benefits and risks of bedsharing for mother-infant pairs who have initiated breastfeeding and are in home settings.
Apps help with breastfeeding -- at a cost
Mobile phone apps are increasingly being used to support breastfeeding decisions - sometimes at a cost, a Flinders University study indicates.
Breastfeeding disparities among us children by race/ethnicity
Overall rates of breastfeeding increased from 2009 to 2015 but they varied by race/ethnicity in this observational study that used national survey data for nearly 168,000 infants in the United States.
Initiating breastfeeding in vulnerable infants
The benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well-recognized, including for late preterm infants (LPI).
WHO study confirms breastfeeding protects against child obesity, however levels of breastfeeding across Europe are well off-target
New research from WHO published at this month's European Congress on Obesity shows that babies who are never or only partially breast fed have an increased risk of becoming obese as children compared to babies who are exclusively breastfed.
More Breastfeeding News and Breastfeeding Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.