How to Set Up a Lactation Room for your Nursing Employees

Did you know that under the new revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) most employers are now required to provide a lactation room for nursing employees? If you are an employer who does not yet have a lactation room in your facility, you might be thinking, “What is a lactation room? And how do I set one up?” We’ll answer the first question quickly. A lactation room is a room where a nursing mother can express (pump) breast milk for her nursing baby while she is at work.

The second question has many parts to it—some required by law, others not required, but still very beneficial for your nursing employees.

As you begin the plans for your room, first make sure that you are covering all legal requirements. Legally, your room…

  • Cannot be a bathroom. A bathroom is simply not a sanitary space for any type of food preparation and breast milk is food.
  • Must be shielded from others’ view. This could be done by using a room separated by a wall and door (any windows covered), or simply by blocking off a space with curtains or closing off a tall cubicle.
  • Free from intrusion from co-workers and the public. This could be accomplished by putting a lock on the door or providing “privacy, please” or “do not enter” signs.
  • Must be functional. At minimum, it must provide a chair (providing a washable one will make cleanup of spills easier) and a flat surface to place the pumping equipment on while using it. (This surface will need to be near the chair and close to elbow height while someone is sitting in the chair.)

Apart from the legal requirements, you may want to consider the following suggestions to provide more comfort for your employees. A woman needs to feel comfortable to have an adequate flow of milk. Comfort should be your #1 priority. Consider including…

  • An electrical outlet. A lot of pumps today are electric. Electric pumps are typically much faster than a hand pump which will allow your employee to return to work duties quicker.
  • Soft lighting, a footstool, beautiful interior decoration such as pictures of a peaceful landscapes or flowers, and a spot where employees can post photos of their infants if they choose. These will enhance relaxation and improve milk flow.
  • A sink for rinsing off pumping equipment and any other necessary cleanup. Consider installing a regular faucet instead of a motion sensed faucet. Motion sensed faucets turn off too frequently to be effective for cleaning pumping supplies.
  • A white noise machine. If your lactation room is in a common area such as behind a curtain or closed off cubicle, providing a white noise machine will increase privacy for the mother and reduce embarrassment. Breast pumps often make noise.
  • No surveillance cameras inside of the space. This is for obvious privacy reasons. It may, however, be wise to include one outside of the room to ensure the safety of the employee using the room.
  • A small refrigerator for storing milk. Mothers will need to express milk all throughout the day and then store the milk to later bring home.
  • A microwave for mothers to sterilize their equipment.
  • A locker with hook or hanger space. This would be especially important if the employees do not have an office or other space to store their personal items.
  • A mirror to readjust clothing upon completion.
  • Cleaning supplies to help keep the space clean.
  • A hospital-grade multi-user breast pump. These pumps might be a good idea for large companies with many nursing mothers. Each employee would use their own separate attachments. They are typically more efficient than a pump that your employees would bring on their own. Contact your insurance company to see if this is something they could cover.
  • A room usage schedule. This is important if you have more than 1 nursing mom at your location. It could be a whiteboard posted on the door or in the room, or an online signup such as a Google Doc.
  • Information on lactation support such as the Office on Women’s’ Health no-cost breastfeeding helpline (see womenshealth.gov for more information). Breastfeeding, although a natural process, can be difficult. And expressing the milk using a breast pump can make it even more difficult.
  • A formal lactation policy. This could help clarify what your company’s policy is on breastfeeding and what resources your nursing employee has access to. Consider posting this in the room.

There are so many ways that you can set up a lactation room, but the bottom line is that you provide a room that is comfortable and relaxing for the nursing mothers at your company. Providing this great resource, whether you are required to by law or not, will only help your working mothers as they try to transition back to work after having a baby.

 

References:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/nursing-mothers

On August 4, 2020 /   healthy workplace, Breast Feeding

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