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:

What causes women to stop breastfeeding early?
A recent systematic literature review has investigated potential sociodemographic, physical, mental, and social factors that may cause breastfeeding mothers to stop breastfeeding before infants reach 6 months of age.
Breastfeeding may protect against chronic pain after Caesarean section
Breastfeeding after a Caesarean section (C-section) may help manage pain, with mothers who breastfed their babies for at least two months after the operation three times less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those who breastfed for less than two months, according to new research being presented at this year's Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva (June 3-5).
Can breastfeeding reduce a woman's risk of metabolic syndrome?
A new study shows that women who spend a longer time breastfeeding during their lifetimes may be able to lower their risk of metabolic syndrome and related disorders included elevated blood pressure, glucose, and triglyceride levels.
Post-breastfeeding tissue remodeling explained by new research
A groundbreaking study into the changes that occur in a woman's breast, from growing into one that provides milk for a newborn, and then back to its normal state, has discovered that milk-producing cells are, in effect, cannibalized by other cells following the period of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes
A new study, which followed 180 pre-term infants from birth to age seven, found that babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.
Breastfeeding gaps between white, black, and Hispanic mothers in the US
Chapman University has published research on how breastfeeding rates differ among white, black and Hispanic mothers.
Breastfeeding, antibiotics before weaning and BMI in later childhood
Breastfeeding in children who had received no antibiotics before weaning was associated with a decreased number of antibiotic courses after weaning and a decreased body mass index (BMI) later in childhood, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Breastfeeding is good for yet another reason, researchers discover
A mother's breast milk supports immune responses in her newborn that help the infant's gut become a healthy home to a mix of bacterial species, thanks in part to newly identified antibodies from the mother, according to a study by UC Berkeley researchers.
Victims of violence stop breastfeeding sooner
One in four women who have been victims of violence as adults are at risk of stopping breastfeeding before their baby is four months old.
Children breastfeeding after first birthday should take vitamin D supplements, study says
Children who are breastfeeding after their first birthday should take a vitamin D supplement to prevent health problems such as rickets, new research suggests.

Related Breastfeeding Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".