I was filling my water bottle before class at my Mid-Atlantic Public University, when I suddenly became aware of this:

Picture of door with lactation room notice posted
A Lactation Room!

Here is how my reaction unfolded:

  1. A lactation room?! Do we really need this? What’s next, a meditation space?? Oh wait, this building already has one of those. . .
  2. Of course we need this!  Mothers shouldn’t be hiding in bathrooms or other semi-public spaces to pump their breast milk!
  3. I didn’t know this was here.  How long has this been here?  Does anyone else know this is here??  If I was a lactating mother would I even think to ask if the building had one of these?  Who would I ask?
  4. That sign seems really hostile . . . was it preemptive or did someone have a really bad experience?
  5. Yay! Feminist progress points for lactation rooms!  But, errrrr, no one knows about it and we’re already yelling at people. Not sure how to feel!!!!
  6. I should write a blog post about this!  But will people think I’m weird for taking a photo of this door?  I’ll come back later . . .
I was going to leave things there, but then I felt guilty.  Who arranged for the lactation room?  Was it an epic struggle?  What feminist heroine should I be contacting to say thank you?
Apparently we should be thanking Obamacare!  By way of the university HR department, I discovered that, thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed in March 2010:

Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “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.” [U.S. Department of Labor]

In fact, the university has six such lactation spaces available across its three campuses (helpfully summarized in an HR “Lactation Resources” document).  While the spaces are few in number and not always freely accessible (only certain hours, requires key, call for access, etc.), this seems like a very positive step for mothers trying to manage both work (or school) and their family commitments.  It’s actually kinda sad we needed federal legislation to have this sort of thing in our society.  I am sure many women’s groups lobbied heavily for this option so thank you to all those people for their efforts.

One of these spaces should be available at your workplace.  Do you know where it is?!