When Christine Bennett returned to teaching English at Palmyra-Macedon Central School District in fall 2015, four months after having her son, Luke, she had a lot of things on her mind. High on her list—like it is on many new working mothers’ lists—was the ability to continue breastfeeding her baby.
To do that, and still fulfill her work duties, she needed a private place at school to pump breastmilk, and the time to do so. Bennett was relieved to find that her needs were met, and counted herself among the fortunate.
“My principal was very accommodating. I was given an aide so I could leave the classroom to pump, and access to a private space. That combination helped me pump successfully,” Bennett says. “I really appreciated the effort.”
A HELPFUL IDEA
The space was an unused book storage room—sufficient, but not exactly pleasant. Bennett spent a lot of time staring at the walls while she pumped. She had other challenges, too. Lugging her breast pump and supplies to and from work was just another thing for the busy mom to think about.
“I thought to myself, ‘My goodness, no wonder so many women don’t continue to breastfeed after returning to work,’” she says.
With females comprising 74% of Palmyra-Macedon CSD’s workforce, many of them younger and likely to have children, Bennett wanted the district to do more to support nursing mothers. She drafted a proposal recommending the school to use its Wellness Is Now Committee funds to create a program that provides breast pumps and supplies for nursing mothers to use while at school.
After extensive research Bennett recommended the school purchase six Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump Starter Kits for $900. They created six supply baskets filled with additional accessories—tubing, breast shields, foaming hand sanitizer and Medela quick wipes. With everything they need right in the workplace, moms can pump in any private room even without a sink. The extra accessories also give peace-of-mind to exhausted breastfeeding mothers, alleviating the pressure of forgetting crucial components at home.
SENSE AND CENTS
When Bennett had her first son, Jack, in July 2012, she stayed home from work longer specifically to breastfeed. She was worried that workdays away from Jack would reduce and possibly eliminate her milk production.
In her absence the school had to provide a substitute. Having the supplies at work made her more comfortable returning to work sooner, ultimately saving the district money and giving her students continuity.
The six Welcome Back breast pump kits are available for the 2016-17 academic year. Bennett hopes that by having a pump available at work, more new mothers will feel comfortable following her example and return to work sooner.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Finger Lakes Community College is also making pointed efforts to better support its breastfeeding staff members. Patricia Zimmer, assistant director of Human Resources and co-chair of the FLCC Wellness Committee says that the college tried a few locations as designated pumping spaces, but each one was less than perfect. Then, a trend emerged.
“We noticed that regardless of location, mothers were leaving blankets, inspirational quotes and pictures of their children. They were taking it upon themselves to make it a more comforting space,” Zimmer says.
FLCC made an institutional decision to establish a dedicated pumping room space. The room is in a low-traffic area, adjacent to a classroom, with a private door. Inside, pumping moms find soft chair set on carpeting, and a locker in which to store their belongings. The IT department donated a CD player for the space, and moms are encouraged to decorate.
Not only does the breastfeeding room allow moms to express milk in comfort, Zimmer says it has nurtured a community and support system. She remembers one mom telling her about the impact the room has had, and how much they value it.
“She told me, ‘We all feel like we want to leave the room better than we found it. We don’t see the other moms regularly but we leave notes for each other and support each other,’” Zimmer says.