Griswald who is chair of the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition, shared her remarks during an interview with BLR Editor Elaine Quayle.
EQ: The question of refrigeration seems to come up with lactation rooms. Ideally, there would be a small refrigerator in the room or nearby. If not, do you have any suggestions?
MG: Again, there is room for creativity here. Ideally, a room would be equipped with a refrigerator; but if that is not a possibility, then mothers can use a cooler that they bring from home and ice packs.
For most mothers of healthy-term infants, this should be adequate for the typical workday. For mothers who have preterm infants or other special circumstances, an ice pack may not be adequate. They can check with their International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or their infant’s healthcare provider for creative options.
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EQ: Do you think designating an area in a lunchroom refrigerator for expressed milk is a suitable option? Some nursing mothers and some coworkers may find this prospect distasteful.
MG: I think it depends on the individual workplace environment. Most importantly, the mother must feel comfortable with where her child’s milk is to be stored. It’s probably not unreasonable to expect that some employees may not be comfortable with milk being stored in a common area for various reasons. However; it is very important for both employees and employers to know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend special handling for human milk.
Human milk is absolutely not considered to be a risk to others should there be a spill. The bottom line is that if anyone finds this option distasteful, then it probably makes sense to figure out another option like having the breastfeeding employee bring a cooler from home. Some companies also purchase a small “dorm” size fridge. It can easily be fit into a small space and comes at a very minimal cost, usually less than $100.
EQ: How should the noise from breast pumps be addressed? Should this be a consideration in which rooms are selected for lactation?
MG: I am not aware of this being a problem, and I have been a lactation consultant in practice for more than 10 years. Pumps tend to be very quiet as manufacturers know that many mothers are using their products in the workplace. It doesn’t tend to come up among other more frequently cited barriers like employees making insensitive comments toward the mother who may be using break time to express milk.
The employer must set the stage for an atmosphere of respect with regard to nursing mothers in the workplace and, therefore, anything that would be considered insensitive with regard to the tasks associated with mothers expressing milk should not be tolerated.
Breastfeeding and lactation—a challenge, but certainly not your only challenge. In HR, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Like FMLA intermittent leave, overtime hassles, ADA accommodation, and then on top of that whatever the agencies and courts throw in your way.
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