One of the many ways you can make your workplace a more welcoming environment is by being more inclusive of nursing mothers. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than half of office workers are women. In our contemporary society, it’s normal for a nursing mother to choose to work and express their breast milk when needed at the office. Usually, babies drink breast milk for close to a year. So, even after maternity leave, mothers will return to the office and need to have a place to express breast milk.
American lactation law requires that companies with over 50 employees have a room specifically for nursing mothers. Though your office might be less than 50 employees and therefore not need to legally abide by that regulation, having a lactation room will solidify your stance as a 21st century company and signal to prospective colleagues that regardless of where their life turns, your workplace is prepared.
Creating a wellness room (often referred to as a lactation room) for mothers isn’t necessarily complicated. However, it should be done with thorough care and the utmost regard for hygiene. Here are some tips to help you create a wellness room for moms in your office:
1. Ask the mothers in the office for input
No matter how much research you do, nothing will compare to the insight that actual moms can provide. Before creating your wellness room, write an email to your colleagues asking for suggestions from mothers with nursing experience. With their input, you will be better equipped to provide the resources and space that’s needed.
2. Maintain a high standard of safety and cleanliness
You will have to ensure that your room is safe and up to a high standard of cleanliness. Here are things your room should have:
- Outlets for microwaves and refrigerators.
- A door with a lock so nobody gets interrupted or intruded on.
- A mini-fridge to keep the breast milk cool.
- A microwave so mothers could heat up steam-pumps.
- Cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and trash cans.
- Air conditioning and heating.
- Pamphlets and instructional materials about breastfeeding.
- A comfortable armchair and table to place items (paper towels, breast pump, bottles, etc.).
- A bulletin board for baby photos.
- A sink to clean breast milk equipment.
- Multiple lockers for all of the supplies.
- Since toilets contain bacteria, the room shouldn’t be near a restroom or be part of a restroom. This is critical to ensuring that the lactation room is clean.
- Noise machines to neutralize and obscure the sound of pumping. Some women might feel conscious about their colleagues listening in. In addition, noise machines could make it more of a relaxing space — who doesn’t love the sound of the ocean?
- Though this room is meant to be practical, it should still have a human touch. Have appropriate decorations that will make mothers feel at ease. In order to pump, women can’t be stressed or hurried. You could also have your team of mothers decorate it themselves.
- Furniture and floors should be cleanable. Therefore, avoid carpeted floors or sofas.
- Pump and various equipment just in case a mother forgets or for those who take public transportation and don’t feel like bringing it themselves.
3. Allow scheduling the use of the wellness room
Though many women use lunchtime or their federally required breaks to pump, this could get tricky if there are multiple nursing mothers in one workplace. To avoid overcrowding, you should have a scheduling system so your colleagues can reserve times throughout the day for pumping. These are a few scheduling platforms that could be helpful:
Office managers should stay on top of these calendars to guarantee that people aren’t double-booking. If needed, workplaces could have a separate Slack channel that’s just for women who use the wellness room. This could be a great space to get feedback from employees on how to make the space better.
4. Create guidelines for the wellness room
Even though the lactation room won’t be used by the majority of your employees, it’s important that all of your colleagues understand what it’s for and how they should interact with the space. Office managers should write up guidelines for their colleagues regarding employees who are breastfeeding. When you onboard a new employee, show them the wellness room and clarify what it’s for.
These are some crucial rules that you should enact to guarantee that your workplace is a welcoming environment for mothers:
- Respect Privacy: If the room is closed and locked, don’t knock and interrupt the mother.
- Don’t Repurpose The Space: There may be a time in which there won’t be any nursing mothers at your workplace. During those periods, it could be tempting to use the lactation room for other purposes like storage or as a quiet room for employees. However, this will set a bad precedent and make things awkward when one of your colleagues becomes a mother or when you hire one later on. To avoid such confusion and messiness, tell employees to leave the lactation room alone.
- Respect Breaks: Nursing mothers need a specific time to express breast milk. This could be potentially disruptive for other employees. Try to be accommodating and flexible with nursing mothers when scheduling important meetings, and understand that they may need to breastfeed or pump at unscheduled times.
5. Provide specific cleaning instructions to custodians
In order for the wellness room to be usable, it needs to be clean and sterile. Give your custodial staff special instructions regarding the wellness room and ask them to avoid using strong or toxic chemicals that could be harmful to a baby when cleaning the room.
Take Your Workplace Culture To The Next Level
Having a wellness room is an important step to making your office a more welcoming environment for nursing mothers and women in general. As long as you’re including experienced mothers in the process, chances are your wellness room will be a success.
Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden can do for your office.