The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is taking the initiative to promote a nursing-friendly environment for mothers on campus with the allocation of lactation rooms.
Lactation rooms are becoming a trend among college campuses and workplaces cater to the needs of nursing women who are trying to balance their work and education with motherhood. Some Texas colleges, such as the UT Health Science Center in Houston, The University of Houston and the University of North Texas, already have lactation rooms in place. UTSA has joined its sister colleges around Texas in creating lactation rooms on campus as an effort to make the campus a more friendly environment to nursing mothers.
Before the creation of these rooms, lactating women were confined to pumping breast milk in public restrooms or breastfeeding at secluded locations on campus. The new rooms provide a more convenient and sanitary option for new mothers.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), there are many benefits to installing lactation rooms on campuses and in the workplace. Studies conducted by DHHS have shown that after women are allowed access to these private spaces, turnover rates and absenteeism decrease while productivity improves.
One UTSA student, who wished to remain anonymous, has had to personally deal with the difficulty of being a new mom while trying to earn a degree.
“Breast-feeding is really beneficial for infants, but it’s also pretty difficult to breast feed while doing anything other than being a stay-at-home mom,” said the anonymous mother. “It’s pretty inconvenient since there is currently nothing in place that accounts for those situations. Accommodations for new mothers would help mothers feel less pressure to decide between going to school and making a decision they feel would be more beneficial for their child.”
According to Texas Health & Safety Code – Section 165.003, businesses may use the designated “mother-friendly” stations in their promotional materials if they develop a policy supporting the practice of worksite breast-feeding.
“The rooms are not solely designated for lactation, they are [also] private room options for nursing mothers who are students. Over the years we have had a couple of inquiries from students who are nursing mothers that needed a private place that doesn’t impede that intimate choice they’ve made with their child to be able to provide that benefit to their child,” said Carol Gonzalez, student ombudsperson, who has been a coordinator of this project.
The lactation rooms requiring prior reservation on the Main Campus are the University Center Wild Persimmon Room (UC 2.03.02) and the University Center Acacia Room (UC 2.03.04). The lactation rooms on the Main Campus that do not need reservations are the University Center Tejas Lounge Changing Rooms (UC 2.208A and UC 2.208B). The Downtown campus location is at the Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI)/Mexico Center (MNTB 2.260).
Some students believe they will be beneficial to new mothers on a personal level. “The rooms are a good idea because breastfeeding in public can make mothers self-conscious,” believes Lounetia Saintginat, a UTSA biology major.
Carol Gonzalez also says these rooms at UTSA are still developing and do not have all the perks of more advanced lactation rooms, since the program recently began this school year. But with time and more student and faculty usage and input, there will be improvement with the program and rooms.
For more information about the hours of operation and amenities each room has, visit http://utsa.edu/health/resources/lactation-rooms.html. For further information, Barbara Reyes, the Assistant Director of Health Promotions and Marketing at Student Health Services, will work with students and staff members on a case-by-case basis.
Reyes says that although the web resource page has been up for just two weeks, discussions about the website and implementation of the program have been ongoing since the summer, and there will be more amenities, more space and more resources as the program evolves.
So far Reyes and Gonzalez have only reported positive feedback.