New moms are an increasingly important part of the American workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly six in 10 women who gave birth within the last 12 months are now back at work.
Employers can help make the transition back to work a lot easier by creating dedicated mother’s rooms -- comfortable, welcoming spaces where mothers who are breastfeeding can pump throughout the workday.
A Mother’s Room Isn’t a Break Room or a Wellness Room
Employers are required by law to provide breastfeeding mothers a private area, other than a bathroom, where they can pump during work hours.
But they should think of mother’s rooms as more than just another workplace amenity. A thoughtfully designed mother’s room communicates to employees that their employer supports working mothers -- and is invested in providing them the privacy and comfort they need.
Wellness rooms are growing popular at companies nationwide. But employers should make clear that wellness rooms or break rooms are not substitutes for dedicated mother’s rooms. Moms who are breastfeeding have to pump at regular intervals. So, it’s important that the room intended for them be available to them exclusively. A mom should never have to confront a colleague who is using a mother’s room to field a personal phone call or take a break.
Some employers administer mother’s rooms like conference rooms, where nursing mothers can reserve them for specific blocks of time. Other moms may appreciate the option to pop in to pump between meetings.
Facebook is one example of a company that has taken this issue seriously. Moms who work at the social networking giant are the only employees who can use mother’s rooms; they have special badges that grant them access on demand.
What Does a Well-Designed Mother’s Room Look Like?
No mother wants to pump for 20 minutes in a folding chair under harsh fluorescent lights. A well-designed mother’s room allows new moms to pump two or three times a day and feel comfortable and relaxed while doing so. A few of our design tips:
- Plenty of space: An individual’s space should be at least five feet by five feet. It’s even better if multiple women can use a dedicated space at once. One employee may be pumping in a private area, while another retrieves or cleans supplies in a common area. Include a variety of surfaces, hooks and storage areas for clothing and personal belongings.
- Practical amenities: Consider including a hospital-grade pump so employees don’t have to bring their own. Include the essentials: refrigerators for storage as well as microwaves and sinks to sterilize bottles and pumping equipment.
- Prioritize privacy: Make sure doors are equipped with locks and encourage employees to use a schedule, whether electronic or on a white board. Consider brightly-colored privacy curtains that can be drawn when space is in use.
- Comfortable seating: Every mother has a seating preference. Some might prefer to sit in soft lounge seating. Those who want to multitask and work on a laptop while pumping may be better suited by a supportive task chair with a work surface.
- Relaxing touches: Ensure new moms have maximum comfort and relaxation by providing books and magazines, light dimmers or even foot massagers.
The Best of Both Worlds
By creating a mother’s room, employers can encourage new mothers who may be unsure about coming back to work to do so. One study of five companies found that a breastfeeding support program -- including access to a mother’s room, classes on the benefits of nursing and a lactation consultation -- resulted in a retention rate of 94 percent among new mothers. That’s much higher than the national average of just 59 percent.
By offering well-designed, dedicated mother’s rooms, employers can show employees that they care about their well-being -- and want them to feel safe, comfortable and supported.
Check back for a future post about the increasing demand for wellness rooms and our design recommendations.