Lactation Rooms Offer Relief for Students


By Karina Rivera

As a mom who is expected her second child this summer, Wanda Perez says she cares how people feel about public breastfeeding. “I would feel uncomfortable exposing myself in public,” said Perez, 22, a nursing student at Lehman College. Many mothers find it difficult to breastfeed because of a lack of unsupportive environments, according to an article published by AMJ Public Health.

However, given the health benefits of breastfeeding, college campuses such as Lehman College, Columbia University, and the University of Houston, are providing lactation rooms and workshops for expectant and new mothers. They aim to create spaces on campus for mothers that have to return to work and school after delivery.

According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy, 4.8 million college students are mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics, or the AAP, recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for their baby’s first six months of life and continue breastfeeding through their baby’s first year of life. A study published by UNICEF showed that breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions.

There have been many proposals and campaigns organized by expectant mothers, and those that have already given birth to their children, in an effort to gain acceptance of breastfeeding and explain its significance to a child’s development. One of these movements is called “Normalizing Breastfeeding.” Its mission is to create a space where mothers around the world can share their personal experiences through blog posts and photos.

“It is important to have breastfeeding rooms at Lehman College because there are a variety of students on campus, many of whom are new moms,” said Perez. “Some women want their privacy while pumping or breastfeeding. I am expecting my second child and hope to use these services once my baby girl is born.”

Many mothers take advantage of these opportunities because had it not been for these services, they would not feel as prepared and confident for the arrival of their new baby.

“I spend more time at school and at work then I do at home,” said Perez. “For a person who wants to exclusively breastfeed their child, it would be beneficial to have at least two occasions in the day to pump and have the privacy of a room specifically just for that.”

The lack of places to pump ultimately limits nursing women’s access to a university or college campus if they need to provide milk for their babies. More so, women have classes and meetings all over campus and at work, and they need to be able to count on having spaces to pump and not worry about having to miss class because of lack of a room.

“While I was with my newborn at home, I was able to breastfeed,” said Perez. “However, when I started work and school I had to slowly stop because of the lack of time and privacy to pump my breast milk. I found it difficult to find privacy and would have to wait till I got back home in the afternoon.”

According to the Journal of Pediatrics &Neonatal Care, many cultural, legal, social and religious factors play a role in acceptance of nursing in public. Public acceptance in turn may have an effect on the rate of breastfeeding in communities and regions.

Colleges are also offering additional resources such as organizations, or clubs, that expectant mothers can join where they discuss choices in childbirth, how to choose a pediatrician, and workshops on federal programs available to them, one of which is the WIC Program.

“I am for normalizing breast feeding because I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Katherine Falcon, 27, a working mother. “It is part of life and something that should be seen as normal and as part of human nature.”

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