With new breastfeeding protections in effect for workers across the country, most employers are now required by law to provide private lactation space for employees. But what exactly does that mean?
The Absolute Essentials
According to federal law, the minimum requirement of a workplace lactation space is that it be “a place other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Therefore, every employer must plan for at least the following when designing lactation spaces:
- A Reservable, Lockable: When it comes to pumping at work, privacy is paramount so, first and foremost, any lactation space should feature a lock on the door. If the space is intended to accommodate multiple pumpers at a time, screens or curtains between pumping spaces should also be a must. And, by law, breastfeeding employees must be accommodated at their preferred pumping times so every lactation room should have an effective sign-up system that allows parents to reliably schedule pumping sessions. Pro tip: don’t forget to make sure there are no cameras in the room!
- Comfortable, Practical Seating: Every lactation room should offer adjustable, supportive seating, near a table, with electrical outlets and USB ports at hand so parents can be comfortable and productive during pumping time. Hygiene is also essential, so wipeable furnishings that clean easily are the way to go.
- Mirrors, Cubbies, and Hangers: Pumping parents must usually undress at least partially to express milk. Even the most basic lactation room should include places for employees to store clothes and belongings and mirrors for re-dressing.
Taking Your Room to the Next Level
If your company wants to be more family-friendly and breastfeeding-supportive, there are many ways to take your space beyond the minimum. Consider including the following:
- A Refrigerator, Sink, and/or Microwave: Once collected, breast milk must be stored in a cool place, so the PUMP Act requires that lactation rooms offer “close proximity” to a refrigerator. If you can include a fridge within your room, you will be making things easier for your staff. In addition, all breast milk and pump parts must be kept sterile, so other next-line amenities include a sink for handwashing and parts-washing, and/or a microwave for steam-sterilizing. NOTE: if you opt to design your lactation room using a turn-key, disposable-parts solution like the MilkMate option (described below), some of these amenities may be less important.
- Storage for Personal Pumps: Personal breast pumps are cumbersome and come with many parts. Carrying them to and from work every day, and to and from the pumping room several times a day, is a monumental hassle that steals time, energy, focus, and patience from parents. Providing pump storage takes a big load off parents, both literally and figuratively. That is unless you are providing the actual breast pumps…
- A Multi-User Breast Pump: Most employers who are truly serious about meeting the needs of breastfeeding employees take it upon themselves to equip their lactation rooms with hospital-grade, multi-user pumps. These high-grade pumps not only make pumping sessions faster and get moms back to work quicker but – arguably more important – they show your moms that you are serious about making their lives easier.
- Sound Dampening Décor: Rugs and wall covers are great in lactation rooms because not only do they create more caring, personal environments for breastfeeding employees, but they also are a big help with noise control. Breast pumps can be loud for those both inside and outside of a lactation room. Adding some smart decorative touches is an easy, low-cost way to create both peace and
- Mom-Friendly Accessories: Think like a mom or – better yet – ASK your moms: what else would be helpful in your lactation room? Nursing pads? Wipes? A smart speaker? Many lactation rooms include bulletin boards where mothers can encourage one another, share photos, post articles, etc. Whatever you choose, a few extra touches will help your moms feel the love.
For a Best-in-Class Lactation Room:
For employers who want to ensure that their lactation spaces earn an A+ both legally and on the ‘mom test’, a turn-key solution like MilkMate is the route to take:
MilkMate provides and installs:
- Purpose-built, modular furniture components
- High-performance, multi-user breast pumps
- Pre-assembled, pre-sterilized, recyclable attachments that make pumping clean and simple for parents.
This comprehensive approach is a game changer for employers and employees alike:
- For employers, MilkMate handles planning, furniture sourcing, decision-making, and inventory management.
- For parents, the uniquely designed furniture, high-grade pumps, and disposable components enable quicker, easier pumping in a more comfortable environment that parents can enter and leave empty-handed and stress-free.
Though a full-service option like MilkMate typically requires more of an up-front investment than a basic lactation room, it is still extremely affordable and the investment pays off, generating rewards in recruitment, retention, and employee satisfaction. Turn-key lactation rooms like Milkmate’s quickly become a valuable employee benefit that pays for itself.
In the long run, no matter what approach your company decides to take for providing lactation services for your employees, one thing will remain true; the lactation room you create will be seen as a reflection of your respect for employees’ needs and your commitment to gender equity. A space, thrown together space will leave one impression on staff, while a thoughtful, full-service space will leave another. Whatever you decide, make sure your lactation room sends the message you want your working parents to hear.