Fifty-eight percent of mothers in Idaho breastfeed their infants until six months of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The University of Idaho is working to implement lactation rooms across campus for breastfeeding mothers to utilize.
UI students Michelle Wilson, Laura Monroe, Madison Farley and Chalayne Hoagland have been working with Human Resources to implement the lactation rooms for a class project.
Hoagland said they currently have three rooms becoming available, one in the College of Education, one in the Women’s Center and a third in the Student Rec Center. The College of Education lactation room 209A opened at 4 p.m. on April 11 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“(The College of Education was) the first building on campus that has a lactation room, so we are just kind of congratulating them for being the first building on campus,” Hoagland said.
The United States is one of the few developed countries that does not mandate paid maternity leave for working women, which presents challenges for mothers who wish to breastfeed their children, according to the International Labor Organization.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act passed in 2010 aimed to combat some of these challenges and mandated that employers provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The PPAHA also mandated employers provide a room other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and available whenever a woman needs it.
Brandi Terwilliger with UI Human Resources said that while they are only required to provide one lactation room, they wanted to designate more.
“We felt like in that the campus is so large that we really need to look at different locations throughout campus so people can get to those locations within that reasonable break time and get back to work,” Terwilliger said.
Between the time the healthcare reform was passed in 2010 and now, Terwilliger said there is really no way to know if there was a need for designated lactation rooms.
“A lot of people have offices or locations where they can do it,” Terwilliger said. “We have no way of gauging what the need has been. We’re happy to provide it and are looking for more.”
Wilson stated the lactation rooms while are primarily intended for staff and faculty, they are also available for student use. Room 209A in the College of Education is available for use as of Wednesday and the other rooms will be available soon, according to Wilson. In order to guarantee privacy, a key checkout system is utilized.
Kaitlin Moroney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org