New Spaces for New Mothers: Western installs lactation rooms

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In Missouri, new mothers are protected under law to be able to breastfeed their child(ren) in public spaces with discretion, but despite legal protection, it can often be difficult or embarrassing for new mother to feed their children while attending classes. Missouri Western has recently designated a series of lactation rooms throughout campus to make new parents more comfortable while taking care of their children’s needs.

Although Missouri Title IX does not require public universities to provide designated lactation spaces for new mothers, Western’s Title IX Coordinator Adam McGowan sees the lactation spaces as a necessary addition to ensure the success of students that are also new parents.

“Women who need to pump milk during the day can’t attend class, or they need to take a break from class and are marked down as absent, and that’s a problem. So,  if we can make it more convenient for them to have a safe space on campus that’s clean and secure and available for them, it will minimize the time they are out of the classroom,” McGowan said.

Prior to construction of the lactation spaces, there were only two spaces available on campus for parents to privately pump: the Esry Student Health Center and an adjunct room offered by the Department of Philosophy and Religion. These spaces were offered students and employees to privately pump, but were restricted to the departments’ business hours.   

Under FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) a lactation space must be distinctly different from a restroom.

At Western, all new lactation rooms will have occupancy locks for security purposes and will include furniture such as a single comfortable chair, a small table near an outlet for pumping machines and a small sink for mothers to clean up after pumping.

Physical Plant Director Jerry Gentry described the renovations as a simple fix to make the university more accessible for new parents.

“We are kind of killing two birds with one stone. We are taking a men’s and a women’s side-by-side [single stall restrooms] and converting one into a family restroom that is unisex, and we are taking the other one and converting it into a lactation room right beside it,” Gentry said.

The overall cost of converting a single-sex, one stall restroom into a lactation space is approximately $1,500 per lactation space. Two lactation spaces are expected to become available at the start of the Spring semester. One space will be located on the second floor of the Looney Complex, and a second space on the upper level of the Hearnes Center. Gentry also discussed the possibility of converting a storage space in Wilson Hall into an additional lactation space.