On April 28, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, known as the “PUMP Act,” went into effect. This new law requires businesses and organizations to provide proper lactation space accommodation for breastfeeding employees, as well as adequate break time for pumping at work.
The PUMP Act extends the legal right to receive lactation space to nearly 9 million more workers, including teachers, nurses, retail and hourly workers, and many others who were not covered under previous laws. It also allows employees to bring lawsuits against their employers for failing to provide proper lactation space or break time for pumping at work.
Employers of all sizes are required to provide private lactation space—which cannot be a bathroom—for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. This new law has critical implications for building design and management.
What Are the Implications for Building Design and Management?
The PUMP Act makes private, functional lactation space even more critical to the design of buildings, and fundamental to implementing equitable environments.
Under the PUMP Act, nursing individuals must be provided with “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” A bathroom is not an allowable location for lactation space, even if it’s a single-occupancy private restroom.
What Should a Lactation Room Include?
The PUMP Act requires that private lactation space for nursing employees be “functional as a space for expressing breast milk.” What is “functional space” for breastfeeding employees? Here are four key guidelines for what to include when creating lactation space:
- Furniture that facilitates comfort and sanitation. Nursing employees require a supportive and upright chair, a small table and additional flat surfaces in order to use personal lactation equipment. Pumping chairs should maintain an upright position for proper use of breast pumps and to avoid milk spillage, and they should be bleach-cleanable for proper sanitation between uses.
- Adequate power supply for equipment. Lactation rooms should have at least two electrical outlets for powering breast pumps and other personal items.
- Refrigerator for breastmilk storage. A private refrigerator, even a small mini fridge, allows breastfeeding employees to safely and securely store breast milk at work. CDC guidelines call for breast milk to be stored at 40 degrees F. It often feels vulnerable and unsanitary to use a communal refrigerator for storage of breast milk.
- Access to a clean water supply. FDA guidelines call for pumping parts and equipment to be washed after each use with soap and water. The American Academy of Pediatrics announced that placing plastic containers, including baby bottles, in the microwave can expose children to harmful chemicals, including Bisphenols (BPA) and phthalates. Therefore, installing a microwave is not a suitable sanitation option or an adequate replacement for access to running water.
What Are Some Quick and Easy Solutions for Implementing Lactation Space?
The law requires that lactation space be clean, sanitary and free from view and intrusion, but not permanent. While many buildings have permanently dedicated lactation rooms, if that is not possible, a temporary functional space can be set up as long as it is in place for up to a year after birth for the user.
Renovation costs can easily be mitigated with off-the-shelf portable lactation stations or lactation pods (i.e. nursing pods) that make implementation of compliant lactation space quick and easy. In addition to privacy, some of these modular, turn-key lactation stations and pods also offer portable plumbing so that rooms without tie-ins to building plumbing can easily include access to clean running water for equipment sanitation and handwashing.
In addition to providing furniture and privacy solutions, there are design consultants that specialize in lactation space allocation and wellness/lactation room accommodation and millwork. These consultants will assist with surveying existing space and can provide guidelines and assistance with both implementation of proper lactation space and setup of lactation rooms and equipment.
Why Else is Functional and Clean Lactation Space So Important?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines recommending breastfeeding for two years if the health of the baby and mother allow for it. Their policy links breastmilk to many benefits in infants, including decreased rates of illness.
In addition, the baby formula shortage has increased pressure on parents of infants. Clean and supportive lactation space in buildings creates an equitable and usable environment for mothers and parents, while positively contributing to maternal mental health outcomes and improved economic conditions for nursing workers.