The University of Connecticut has established “lactation areas” and “lactation breaks” for employees and students who are currently breastfeeding.
“The policy was enacted to provide information to breastfeeding employees and students regarding their rights to a reasonable break time, as well as a space to breastfeed or express breast milk at UConn,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in an email.
This policy mandates that employees, students and faculty at the Storrs, UConn Health and regional campuses must have access to a “clean, private (the ability to be shielded from view and free from intrusion), comfortable space with electrical outlet, chair, table for breast pump and nearby access to clean running water,” according to UConn.
This is consistent with Connecticut state law that prohibits the “deprivation of the right to breast-feed one’s child,” which provides reasonable time to pump in accordance with such provision, according to UConn.
In a study published in Breastfeeding Medicine, it was found that of the 157 participating universities 3.6 percent had an official policy for lactation breaks and areas posted in a student handbook. Of these 157 participating universities, it was also found that 54.68 percent had designated lactation spaces accessible to their students. There was no mention of faculty or staff in this study.
UConn follows a recent trend of universities who are increasing access for school community members to lactation areas and breaks. While these areas exist, concerns still remain over the number of spots available on campus, given problems presented at other universities with lactation areas such as Stanford and Northwestern. UConn has previously had similar issues.
“We had areas for lactation before the policy was enacted, but only a handful,” Reitz said. “Our efforts to find more locations are meant to provide more ease and convenience for those breastfeeding or expressing milk.”
These locations can be found on the Work-Life webpage through the Department of Human Resources. The sites are currently unlabeled.
“The subcommittee hopes to address this question in the coming months,” Reitz said.
The UConn chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) was also reached for comment.
“It is great that UConn is taking the initiative to create these areas,” eighth-semester NOW Vice-President Emma Casagrande said. “This is a good initiative for those who want the private space to breast feed and pump. I think that students and professors probably aren’t breastfeeding frequently and are mostly pumping, so access to these lactation areas is most beneficial.”
The university has tasked a subcommittee of employees through the UConn Work-Life Oversight Committee to “implement, communicate and promote the policy,” according to Reitz’s email.
Casagrande believes that the university can take more steps towards gender-equity on campus.
“Do we have birth control [the Pill, IUDs, etc.] available on campus? We are always given condoms, but there is not similar access given for women to other forms of birth control,” Casagrande said. “These are steps we can also take as part of the national conversation on women’s health.”
Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.