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Old 08-04-2006, 01:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I currently work for a rather large university and I tend to go to the restroom at the same time just about every day. Anyway, almost every day I hear the distinctive sound of a manual pump being used in the stall next to me and it just makes me so angry that women have to pump in a restroom due to the lack of appropriate breastfeeding facilities on campus.

At my campus, there is only ONE area designed specifically for the breastfeeding mother in mind - the Women's Outreach Center. I even searched the university website to see if there were any others out there and I couldn't find any. I emailed the director of the center with regard to trying to start an initiative to add more breastfeeding facilities to the campus and have gotten no response. I'm furious! One would think a women's center would already have a program in motion to support breastfeeding awareness and the addition of more appropriate facilities on campus, but they don't.

I'm going back to school full-time this fall and it just sickens me to think I might suffer the same fate when classes start back up in the spring after my little boy makes his way into the world. I do not want me or any other woman to feel forced to pump in an area used by hundreds of people per day for excreting waste. Breastmilk is not human waste!!!!

I have to do something about this, but I have no idea where to begin. I started trying to gain support from the people on campus I figured were most likely to agree that it's an important issue that warrants some attention. Apparently I was wrong and now I'm trying to figure out who to take this issue to and get some results!

Do any of you have any suggestions?
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:30 AM
 
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At my school of 40,000 students even at the busiest times of day there are classrooms that aren't being used in most buildings. You might be able to come to some arrangement based on that. You know, MWF mornings you get to use room 218 in one building and in the afternoon you use room 113 in another, with other rooms for other times? On my campus the lunch hour is pretty open as far as classes, with most classes starting after 1pm, and the only classes going from noon to 1 are the ones that started at 11 and just go for 2-3 hours.

Another choice, and this wouldn't be ideal as there'd be less privacy than in an unused classroom with a sign "This Room is in Use", but better than a stall, is if there are any bathrooms with clean lounge areas. Those at least would have an electric outlet for a pump so you could read while pumping and they are cleaner since they are separated from the toilet area. At my campus the ones on upper floors tend to be less busy, and there's at least one bathroom in the student union building that I've gone to when there was a huge line in the other bathrooms and this bathroom had one person--again with a very nice couch and such.

The thing is, you don't need a place for all nursing mothers to pump as nice as that would be, you need a place for you personally to pump. If you know your class schedule for the spring already try getting in touch with building managers at your school and ask for their help in finding some free rooms.

The other thing for you to look at is how can you get in touch with other nursers. Like this lady you hear pumping all the time, maybe see if you can wait a bit longer, or just talk to her through the stalls after you've found out about a possible place to pump and just say "hey, did you know that they have classrooms free in building X? I talked with the building manager and she says I could use them for pumping and let me know which rooms are free at various times."
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks. I'll have to check into the classroom thing. Unfortunately, I have YET to see a bathroom with a lounge area on my campus. The ones I have seen are just sinks and stalls.

It just frustrates me because there have to be students, faculty, and staff all over campus with the same issues. Granted, some of the faculty and staff could use their offices, but students aren't afforded that luxury.
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:47 AM
 
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You'd think that at least in the student health center there'd be a place to pump. At my school at least, by demographics the nursing and biology programs should have some kind of arrangement.
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:49 AM
 
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I work at a women's college that has no official facility for breastfeeding mothers!

The place is run by an order of Sisters and maybe that sort of thing is just not on their radar.

Ask around. My mom also used to teach dance at this college and when I was pumping, she gave me the key to the gym storage room. It had a small restroom in the back of it, so it worked out pretty well. I could lock myself in and had access to an electrical outlet, a sink and a toilet (which was also handy since I didn't have a very long break and had to fit in pumping, eating, and the rest).
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Old 08-04-2006, 01:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I was thinking that if I had faculty supporting the endeavor, the issue may get more attention. One of the faculty members I work with currently is a die-hard feminist and focuses her research around women's issues. She would probably be more than happy to offer her support. I wouldn't be asking the university to build separate facilities specifically for it, but converting some of the bathroom stalls in some of the buildings wouldn't be too hard: take out the toilet, add a chair and possibly a shelf of some type, and add an electrical outlet. Voila! Granted, it'd still be a bathroom, but at least women could rest assured that someone didn't just use the toilet in there.

3girls1boy, I find it completely unbelievable that you attend a women's college and there aren't any facilities designed for breastfeeding. Wow!

Perhaps women all over the place should start contacting people in universities to try and make some changes. With the amount of women returning to work and/or school after having a baby, surely this deserves much more attention than it's getting!
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Old 08-04-2006, 02:03 AM
 
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Try contacting your student newspaper.
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Old 08-04-2006, 04:13 AM
 
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take out the toilet, add a chair and possibly a shelf of some type, and add an electrical outlet. Voila! Granted, it'd still be a bathroom, but at least women could rest assured that someone didn't just use the toilet in there.
You'd still have the issue of aerolized flushes in the air contaminating everything within several feet.

Adding electrical outlets isn't always that easily done either.

I think a better bet would be one that doesn't require any remodeling of existing facilities, like posting a schedule at the doors of each room as to when they are free or using an unoccupied office or small room that could be set up for this in each building or in one of a group of nearby buildings.

"What will you do once you know?"
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Old 08-04-2006, 08:40 AM
 
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How about a dressing area in the women's locker room? Some have seats with a counter and outlets that might work for pumping. Also, I second the idea about asking faculty. There might be someone who is out of their office to teach at the times you need to pump and won't mind having you use it during that time.

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Old 08-04-2006, 09:52 AM
 
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Have you tried talking to your department?

When I had ds1, I was a junior in chemistry at Penn State. I don't think the University had any accomodations, either, although I'm sure the nurses at the health clinic would gladly lend a room. The town was very progressive/crunchy. I just asked around and at first I used a bathroom on the 4th floor of the building I was working in (research) b/c a grad student/pumping mom told me that she was one of 2 women on that floor (seriously) and the other woman wouldn't come in if we put a note on the door. Not long after that, the chemistry department gave us an empty office w/ a microfridge in it to share. I think there were 3 or 4 of us using it. We each got a key and wrote notes to each other saying about what time we usually pumped. I only remember overlapping once and we just pumped together, neither of us cared. It was with the grad student I talked about, I might not have been that comfortable w/ someone I didn't know back then w/ my first baby.

THe campus was full of bathrooms w/ little louge areas. THese lounge areas were different from most I've seen. Usually, if the bathroom had one, you walked through the door into the bathroom adn there were curtains on either side of you, like a hallway into the main bathroom. If you peeked behind the curtains, there were little couches in stall sized areas. THey'd be great for pumping. Not all buildings had these bathrooms, although ALL of the bigger bathrooms (ones w/ more than 3 stalls) had backless couches in them. I personally would not have felt comfortable pumping out in the open in a campus bathroom in a classroom building. I was comfortable doing it in a smalller department building though.

I did pump out in the open in the bathroom when I worked at Lilly after ds2 was born. Lilly provided a room w/ a hospital grade pump, but I found the pump painfull and the building was 2 buildings away. THere were 3 other pumping moms working on my floor (ime, chemists tend to be more towards the crunchy side than general population. lol. Maybe it's b/c we understand the dangers of all these chemicals.) 2 of them went to the nurse's room provided and the other pumped out in the open. After going in and chatting w/ her a few times, I decided it wasn't worth going so far and I started pumping in there, too. THe bathroom was huge and the cleaning people were in there I swear every 3 hours sanitizing everything. We sat on the floor at first, which I didn't mind at all, but when my supervisor saw me, she brought in a chair and left a note on it not to move it b/c it was for the nursing moms. That was really sweet, I think. That other mom pumping in there amazed me, though. She was pumping for twins and would pump about 12 oz in 5-10 min! SHe would just keep switching bottles.

Anyway, ask around, you might be surprised.
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Old 08-04-2006, 11:15 AM
 
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If there's a hospital, check there- there might be a pump room in the hospital. When I started back to school (I'm a grad student) it took me two weeks of calling around and knocking on people's doors and generally being a pain before I could find this out. Talk to HR and if there are LC's at the hospital, talk to them.

My next step was going to be talking to my department, though. In my experience, my dept have been very willing to accomodate me in terms of helping me find breaks and (if it had been needed) a space to pump.

Good luck! Just be vocal and willing to talk about it and ask people for help. One mom in my dept. actually lost her milk at 3 mo. because she couldn't find a place to pump and was too shy to ask anyone for help.

Julia
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Old 08-04-2006, 11:30 AM
 
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I pumped in the restroom for 2 months until one of my professors walked in and said "that must be Jen in there- I know a pump when I hear one" (she BF her son) and she offered to let me use the Psychology Lab since no one was using it during the day. I really appreciated that. Maybe you can ask your professors about empty classrooms or Labs. I've heard of mamas using the little study rooms in the library- I'm pretty sure they are required to accomodate you.`

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Old 08-04-2006, 12:02 PM
 
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Sometimes you just have to ask. I mean, yes, they should have a facility set up. But if they don't, then demand one. Seriously. I used to just go ask someone at an office or service desk or whatever. I'd introduce myself and tell them I was a breastfeeding mother and I needed a clean, quiet place to pump milk. Believe it or not, nobody ever turned me down. I got taken to some pretty strange places sometimes but I always was granted a decent spot. Sometimes it would be an empty office, sometimes a storage space, sometimes a conference room that was not being used. All better than a bathroom. I even asked once when I was out shopping and the store people let me use their breakroom and just posted a sign on the door not to enter for the 15 min I was in there.
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Old 08-04-2006, 04:30 PM
 
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I worked on four different college campuses (student affairs) and here's what I think:

1. Contact the Director of the Women's Center in person (set an appointment with her receptionist), so you can talk about this face-to-face. During the summer, especially, it's really hard to reach faculty/staff because most of them are on vacation at one time or another. Don't assume she's blowing you off .... emails often take lower priority than an in-person appointment.

I would approach the meeting from a couple different perspectives:
A. Can we organize a bf support group on-campus, open to faculty/staff/students?

B. Is there a university-wide policy in re: bf and bf pump room availability?

C. What would need to be done to create a campus awareness and make this an issue that is addressed campus-wide, not just on an individual level (since you're concerned about other women who may not be as assertive about asking for help)?

(Bear in mind that unless you have a larger population of non-traditional students, this may not be a huge issue on her radar - numbers matter and if only a few women on campus are even in a condition to be considering bf, then it's likely to be a lower priority for her than the more "traditional" women's issues, like sexual assault, body image issues, sexual harassment, etc. -- So you may end up having to "sell" bf support to her a little bit as a priority)

2. If you know your degree, work within your department. Approach a prof whom you like/respect, and see what they might know about in terms of availability within the department. Perhaps there's an unused office, or perhaps the prof would loan his/her office during the time you need to pump, or etc. I think you're most likely to find accomodations on an individual and immediate level, via this route. It's actually probably not so big an issue for your female profs, because they have their own offices and just close and lock the door when it's pumping time, if they're bf. But there may already be some system in place for other students who are bf, that you can transition right into.

3. I agree that you should be able to find empty classrooms etc., the key is to have availability that works for *you.* It's unlikely that the school is going to be able to modify each building to provide pumping space (at least, in the timeframes universities work within, not within the next couple years) -- but each building WILL likely have a room available at the time you need to pump, which doesn't include the bathrooms. The office to contact about this, would be the Facilities office (or whatever they call the office which is in charge of cleaning and maintenance in all the buildings). Additionally, if you check with the Advising office you are likely to find someone who can access the room systems to let you know (as well) when rooms are empty. I know the last college I worked at, would have been able to "reserve" a room for you at X time daily for the entire semester, so that if a prof wanted to have a study group there or etc., or the cleaning crew wanted to clean, they'd know it was occupied and schedule accordingly. Many, many universities have such computerized systems now (I'd also double-check with the Dept'l Sec'ys in the buildings in question to make sure they're aware too, because of the tendency towards independence which also happens on university campuses ).

Other rooms to consider, if you've got longer breaks and want a nicer surrounding than an empty classroom or storage room ... many campuses now have "study rooms" which students can check out keys for (or even conference rooms) in their residence halls. You can reserve those rooms for free as a university student (often even if you don't live in the halls) and have a semester-long reservation for those, too. Also, there's the student union (which also often will have a nice empty room somewhere and may not charge you - although they're more likely to charge, so that might be a place where the Women's Center could assist in getting that not to happen).

And the Health Center is always a good option and you'd probably find something there that can help you.

If you encounter hostility or stonewalling
- the Dean of Students' office, or else the Ombudsman, or both, would be able to mediate and work with you on the issue as well. Fewer schools have ombudsmen than a Dean of Students, so look there first.

HTH!
IMO (and recall that I was a staff?faculty member, but I worked with students directly) -- universities in the end are bureaucratic and slow to act, and frankly the perspective from the university itself is that students are only there for 4-5 years, and therefore they are more likely to move on issues that are also impacting staff/faculty (and faculty/staff get better parking etc.) .... Students are the money source, but they're also transitional and move on before they're savvy enough to manipulate for widespread change, KWIM? So the status quo is hard to change from a student perspective. Once students have been in the system long enough that they know what needs changing, they're near graduation and either apathetic, or else struggling to convince the frosh/sophs that it's a big enough issue to become involved with it ....

Not all who wander are lost.
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Old 08-04-2006, 04:38 PM
 
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I would just add that this IS a staff/faculty/grad issue as well- probably more so than an undergrad issue. It might help to approach it like that.

Julia
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Old 08-07-2006, 04:28 PM
 
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KrystalC, first of all, good for you to give your baby your milk! I know there are barriers at your university, but I applaud you for your forethought and initiative.
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Old 08-08-2006, 01:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all of the replies. Each of you have given me excellent suggestions!!!! I certainly DO plan to contact the Director of the Women's Center directly as soon as classes start to see if she's interested in taking this on as a new project. If she wants to gauge the interest on campus, I'll be more than happy to start a petition and start soliciting signatures.

I just left my job as a full-time staff member at the university, so I know all about the availability of faculty members during the summer. I'm going to give it until September 1 before I call the center. I just get really, really impatient at times when waiting for people to get back with me.

Momofalex, small world! I'm a psych major and the only psychology professor I knew really well just left the university, which is such a shame as I know she would have done everything she could to help me out with this. I HEART developmentalists. If nothing else, she may be willing to talk to her department if I contact her by email and explain my plight to her. I didn't know the library had a restroom with a lounge area since I do most of my stuff online and I'll definitely talk to some people I know over at Goddard who are alumni from the graduate department I used to work for.

I do have a bit of time before this will potentially become an issue for me as my baby is not due until December, so it won't be until spring semester that it will become necessary for me to pump. However, I am not just concerned about MY well-being. I'm concerned about the well-being of other breastfeeding mamas out there who may get discouraged due to the lack of *convenient* facilities. I live close enough to campus that I may be able to come home to pump in between work and class, but I'm sure many other women commute and don't have the same luxury.
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:29 PM
 
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KrystalC,
If you were to contact the student newspaper you could have the added benefit of making the young students (both female and male) actually think about the feeding options when they become parents. That could possibly spark a conversation or two about breastfeeding and how much better it is for both baby and mother.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yay! I got in touch with the Director of the Women's Outreach Center this afternoon and she's very, very interested in supporting an initiative to convince university administrators that this is an important issue deserving of their attention. We're going to be meeting soon to brainstorm ideas on how to gather support from faculty, staff, and students, etc. I've written down many of your suggestions and will take them with me when I meet with her.

I hope this works and we're able to be successful in having sanitary, private areas with electrical outlets placed in various locations on campus for breastfeeding mamas!
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Old 08-15-2006, 01:11 AM
 
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I'm a breastfeeding mom in school--my school doesn't even have changing tables, never mind areas to breastfeed, though. Fortunately, since I'm a graduate student, I have my own office and pump there, nurse there, etc.

I know that I would have NO problem with lending out my office for the purpose of a mother pumping. I friend of mine borrowed her professor's office to pump. I think the question would be knowing who to ask and being bold enough to do so.

I suppose I could put a little sign on my door saying "Need a place to pump? Give me a call!"
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