By Vincent Ball and Guneet Singh
A lactation station, the first in a municipal building in the United States, opened at Suffolk County’s government headquarters in Hauppauge this week, giving breastfeeding mothers, visitors and employees, a comfortable place to nurse their babies.
Located on the third floor of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, the lactation room features amenities like proper refrigeration, outlets for electrical pumps, a changing table, and comfortable seating in an effort to accommodate women who are nursing their children.
A member of the Working Families Party, Deirdre Schifling, a working mother herself, brought the idea to Legislator Kate Browning. “We spoke of nursing moms and the challenges they have when they are out with their children and even more when they return to work,” Browning said.
Used for both breastfeeding and pumping, the lactation room in the H. Lee Dennison Building is a sterile and relaxing environment that encourages women to nurse their children when it’s convenient for them.
As breastfeeding complications researcher Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, a board certified emergency physician, points out, lactation rooms, such as the one featured in the H. Lee Dennison Building, can have a great impact on the women using them.
“Baby-Feeding rooms that are easily accessible improve workplace performance,” del Castillo-Hegyi, explains. “An engorged mother will not be able to work effectively; Moms need to pump at least every 3 hours for 20-30 minutes to prevent engorgement and to maintain their supply.”
“Many moms use this time to eat lunch or work while they are pumping,” del Castillo-Hegyi said. “Lactation rooms are as important a workplace accommodation as dining areas and bathrooms. Breastfeeding is a basic bodily function.”
Agreeing with del Castillo-Hegyi is Soyon Kim, a professor at Stony Brook University who taught a course on Gender and Work. “A mother’s decision to breastfeed and their right to do so should be accommodated,” Kim said.
For mothers without the sanctuary provided by a lactation room, nursing their children while at work can be an uncomfortable experience. A mother currently nursing her child, Olivia Reynolds has to deal with the struggle of working in an office building without a lactation center.
“I would love to have a safer and more sanitary place to pump while at work,” Reynolds said. “The bathroom just doesn’t cut it for something so important in the developmental process of my child.”
An employee in the Office of Aging, Marisa Condit uses the room daily and is glad to see that “breastfeeding is being promoted a lot more” throughout the building.
Director of the Office of Women’s Services, Grace Ioannidis is currently working on opening a lactation room at the Riverhead County Center.