As a new mom, I find taking my baby out for a day of errands or to a special event very challenging. I need to plan out ahead of time when he will need to eat, where I am going to nurse him, where I will change him and if I choose to give him a bottle, where I will pump. I cannot begin to count how many times I have changed a baby in the back seat or trunk of the car. Or how many times I have walked around a store or shopping mall searching for a somewhat private bench or place to nurse while my baby wails and my 5-year-old son complains that we are walking in circles. Or how many times I have pumped in the back seat of my car or in a public bathroom. If only public places catered more to the needs of new moms, a day at the beach could really be “a day at the beach”.
Since passing the Affordable Care Act in 2013, companies who employ more than 50 employees are required by law to provide a private place, that is not a bathroom, for new nursing mothers who need to express milk during working hours. But there is no such law or guideline for other public places like shopping malls, restaurants, movie theaters or airports where new nursing mothers may go with or without their babies. Imagine a new mother who needs to travel by plane for work or even just for vacation. Typically, she will need to pump or nurse every 2-4 hours. The drive to the airport may take up to an hour, check-in and security another hour, waiting for the flight or a flight delay may take another hour or longer. 3-4 hours may have gone by before she even gets on the plane. A new nursing mother will have to either nurse her baby or pump at some point during her time at the airport. But where is she to go? The bathroom which is very unsanitary and unpleasant for a baby to be eating in or a mother to be expressing milk in? Or out in the open where people are continuously walking by making for a very uncomfortable situation for mom and a very distracting one for baby? I have been in this exact situation many times and let me tell you, it is a very challenging and stressful situation to be in.
Fortunately, property owners and developers are beginning to understand the challenges new moms face and are adapting their designs on new construction and remodels to include mother’s rooms or lactation rooms in their spaces. In case you are unfamiliar with the concept, mother’s rooms or lactation rooms are private, clean, quiet places dedicated for the sole purposes of nursing a baby or expressing breast milk. They may be simply furnished with a comfortable chair and table or more elaborately furnished with a sink, refrigerator, microwave, outlets and changing table. The Cincinnati Reds baseball team recently added a nursing suite in their stadium. The Pampers Nursing Suite, built by Fischer Homes, is a private area open to moms and babies for breastfeeding. This space features comfortable gliders, a sink, ice and refrigeration, a private restroom, changing stations and lockers for storing your nursing items during the game.
Some retail stores like Nordstrom and Babies ‘R Us also provide their customers with mother’s rooms so new moms have a place to nurse while they are out running errands and shopping. I have personally used the mother’s room in both places and I cannot express how convenient and useful they are. It would be very beneficial, not only for new moms, but for retail companies as well, to consider adding these rooms in all public places. If a new mom is shopping and her baby begins to cry because he is hungry, many moms would just hurry up and leave. Or knowing that the baby is due for a feeding soon, a mom will be in and out of the store, getting only what she needs and leaving no time for browsing. Why wouldn’t retail companies want their customers to shop longer? By providing a mother’s room, mom can take a quick break to feed her baby and then continue to shop, therefore spending more money in that establishment. Making your customers happy also leads to repeat visits. This concept can apply to all public places. People, when they have a choice, go to places that are most convenient and that they are most comfortable in. Having a mother’s room can make your commercial establishment a destination for new moms and families. We recently enjoyed Hershey Park’s Christmas Candylane, and only considered the outing because I saw on their website that they had a private space for nursing mothers. I had a place to go, out of the cold, to nurse my baby throughout the day. If they didn’t have this space, we would not have gone at all.
If you are looking to design a commercial place or workplace, consider adding a mother’s room in your design. Give us a call at JL Architects and we can do the design for you.
*Images courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds Facebook page