Lactation locations present great resources for mothers

Elizabeth Polsdofer

While many students are grumbling about the amount of assignments they need to complete and books they need to read for class, there is a certain section of students and faculty who are concerned about feeding their infant family during the working day.

Unlike the deadline for a calculus assignment, however, mothers who need to breast-feed their children are unable to complete their tasks at a desk in the library or  a classroom.

That’s what lactation locations at Iowa State are for — to give mothers a private space to nurse their children. As an excess of 30,000 students mourn the loss of their summer everywhere across Iowa State’s campus, mothers are celebrating the month of August as National Breast-feeding Month.

“As a university, as an employer of over 50 employees, we have to provide lactation locations,” said Chris Fowler, interim director of the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center. “We have to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing children for one year after her child’s birth.”

As most students spend their academic career attempting to avoid pregnancy, the question then becomes: What exactly are these lactation locations and where are they?

“Some are separate rooms; some are part of a bathroom; most of the time they’re part of a bathroom,” said Breina Burgin, graduate student in chemistry. Burgin is also a breast-feeding mother. 

“Some places not everyone understands that when someone comes in, that’s a mom and that’s their zone,” she said.

Burgin said most of the time when she explains to people she needs to use a lactation location, they are willing to give her privacy.

“It’s a zone that if people need to rest or relax that’s fine, whatever, but it’s the moms that take priority because it is for them,” Burgin said. “Most of the time I’ve been in, there are people reading. Some moms don’t care about modesty. The room is for women only, but some moms aren’t, and they get a little cranky about it.”

Burgin had her first child during her first semester as a graduate student at Iowa State. As the mother of a now 21-month-old girl, Burgin said she did not at first fully utilize the lactation locations closest to her.

“I knew about the [lactation rooms] beforehand, but it took me at least two months after I stopped nursing my daughter before I discovered there was one in my own building,” Burgin said. “It was a more convenient location because also in that particular room they actually have lockers that are connected in the bathroom so I was able to have a locker so I could store all my supplies in one location and not have to drag them in and out of my office with me all the time.”

Mothers breast-feed on a schedule — anywhere from once a day for children who are weaning off breast milk to up to eight to 12 times a day for the first month of a child’s life.

Women who are unable to keep up with their breast-feeding schedule will experience pain and leaks from being unable to relieve pressure.

“If you go from [breast-feeding] eight times a day to zero times a day, the world is not a happy place,” Burgin said.

“We need to provide lactation locations for employees because not everyone has a door that locks to their office. So if for me, if I needed to breast-feed, I can shut my door and lock it, no one will disturb me, and I can pump,” Fowler said. “Not everyone has that opportunity or that work environment. Especially students don’t, so we need to make sure we provide that for all our students who need that and our faculty and staff as well.”

There are currently 14 lactation locations on campus, including a station in Parks Library. 

Fowler said efforts to expand the number of lactation locations is a focus she has been working on in addition to working with interim assistant director of the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, Som Mongtin, to provide additional services to Cyclones who are balancing their work and family life.

“[Expanding lactation location services] is something that the Women’s Center has being working with Facilities Planning and Management on for a number of years, to make sure we are expanding those services across campus,” Fowler said. “I will say Facilities Planning and Management has been doing an excellent job.”