By Abby Lohr, Ryley Tegler, and Linda Tumellie; photo credit to Abba Versace, Academic Advisor II in the Office of Student Services and Alumni Affairs
University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health faculty, staff, appointed professionals, and students have long been promoters of breast feeding. According to the Office of Women’s Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, babies who are breastfed have lower risks of several health problems including asthma, childhood leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, ovarian cancer, and some types of breast cancer (1).
The US Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act, Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision outlines that employers must provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers to express breast milk for their nursing child (2). Despite this law, returning to work after maternity leave has been associated with discontinued breastfeeding (3). Mothers who have access to a lactation room, however, are more likely to continue breastfeeding (4).
The College identified lactation space on the north campus beginning in December of 2007. It remained operational until April of 2016, when building development on that part of campus required the space to be vacated for the new Banner hospital. Drachman Hall was constructed without specific space identified for a lactation room location for the College and a room in the adjacent Skaggs building was identified for use by UA Health Sciences employees, visitors and students.
Based on a 2016 college wide survey that identified the need for a new lactation room, a team of students and staff from the MEZCOPH College Environment Committee, Physical Space subcommittee (PSS), took on the challenge of carving out a space in Drachman Hall.
In the fall of 2017, the PSS successfully applied for a $1500 grant from the UA Commission on the Status of Women. MEZCOPH Dean Iman Hakim generously agreed to provide additional funding to make the lactation room a reality.
The next challenge was the room location. Space is at a premium across the UA Health Sciences campus. First, we considered constructing a room within the third floor mail room due to its proximity to a sink. After receiving a $15,000 estimate from UA Facilities Management, however, this option was ruled out.
Consequently, Dean Hakim consulted with UA Health Sciences administrators and discovered an underutilized storage room on the first floor of Drachman Hall. The PSS members found this option even better than the mailroom as it is more accessible for students and the public. The UA Commission on the Status of Women grant helped pay to clean the storage room up – paint and replace ceiling tiles – as well as fund a key pad lock for extra security and privacy. Dean Hakim provided furniture and a refrigerator for the room.
On February 19th, 2018, the PSS members organized a MEZCOPH lactation room ribbon cutting ceremony complete with milk and cookies to celebrate the successful completion of the space.
Like other public health initiatives, it took a team of people and persistent work to make the MEZCOPH lactation room a reality. We would like to thank the UA Commission on the Status of Women, MEZCOPH Dean Iman Hakim, Dr. Elise Lopez for her consultation, the mothers who provided input in our lactation room focus group, Juan Carlos Portillo for us ongoing support with MEZCOPH facilities, and Linda Tumellie for her assistance with financial navigation.
We believe that all mothers should have access to a private space to express milk for their children and we are proud to say that MEZCOPH can now provide a room for just that purpose.
- Office on Women’s Health. “Why breastfeeding is important.” Accessed on March 3, 2017 https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html
- United States Department of Labor. “Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act – Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision.” Accessed on March 3, 2017. https://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/Sec7rFLSA_btnm.htm
- Ogbuanu, C., Glover, S., Probst, J., Liu, J., & Hussey, J. (2011). The effect of maternity leave length and time of return to work on breastfeeding. Pediatrics, 127(6), e1414-e1427.
- Tsai, S. Y. (2013). Impact of a breastfeeding-friendly workplace on an employed mother’s intention to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Breastfeeding Medicine, 8(2), 210-216.