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UA Featured as a Best Practice Model for Student Parent Lactation Support

"Breastfeeding on Campus" by Montez Petronelli
© The Student Parent Project, Inc. 2006

For many new parents who are students, breastfeeding can add a new layer of complexity to their already challenging lives and schedules. Breastfeeding can however, be successfully managed by students with proper planning and support.

I'm pleased to report that a number of forward-thinking schools have implemented comprehensive lactation policies and resources which support breastfeeding student parents. Two schools topping my list of "best practice models for lactation support " are The University of Arizona (UA Life & Work Connections Office in Human Resources) and The University of Michigan (Work/Life Resource Center), with each providing comprehensive and creative service programs which facilitate successful experiences for breastfeeding student parents.

You can use the following models as guidelines and resources for managing your own breastfeeding needs while going to school, or you may adapt these policies to help implement new lactation support services on your college campus.

Strategies and Support
Having a plan of action will help ensure your success - both as a breastfeeding parent, and as a student. The University of Arizona offers a list of well considered strategies for students who are breastfeeding or seeking campus support for lactation resources. Excerpted from this page,the following suggestions are a great starting point for parents needing to incorporate lactation into their campus schedules:

1. Access available research about the benefits of breastfeeding from multiple perspectives:

  • infant well being
  • employee (student) productivity
  • employee (student) recruitment and retention
  • lower absenteeism due to illness

2. Present a compelling case to your professor or manager from a supervisory point of view regarding enhanced commitment to academic and professional goals.

3. Identify previous lactation room arrangements and personal lactation experiences from other departments and colleagues as references for successful models; inquire if units and individuals would be willing to provide documentation to share with your instructor or manager.

4. Whenever possible, demonstrate flexibility in scheduling your daily activities in order to meet your baby's, program's or unit's needs.

5. Consider having your baby attend part time childcare hours during the end of your leave and prior to your formal return to campus, so that you both can have a transitional period. Inquire about returning to work or class on a Wednesday or Thursday, rather than a Monday, so that you have a chance to assess and modify your schedule.

6. Explore childcare possibilities closer to campus during your baby's early years so that you can visit and/or feed your infant during breaks.

For additional consideration, I highly recommend reading The University of Arizona's informative guide: "Strategies for Individuals and Instructors/Managers." Michigan also posts a very good and comprehensive list of considerations - although aimed at employees, many of the suggestions apply to students as well.

Lactation Room Setup
Having a clean, private, designated area available for breastfeeding parents is highly desirable and supports positive and sustainable breastfeeding experiences. Both The University of Arizona and the University of Michigan have developed written guidelines for establishing lactation areas on campus. Michigan notes that modifying facilities to accommodate nursing mothers is a fairly simple and inexpensive process. Following is an excerpt from Michigan's Lactation Room Setup Guide.

The University of Arizona's guide, which is similar and also very good, can be viewed here. Each provide sound advice and direction for schools seeking to establish lactation rooms.

1. Secure support of top administrator(s) in your unit. Sometimes it may be necessary to have a committee of people who support this idea to bring it to their attention. Do your homework! Check out web resources.

2. Locate a small space-a "lounge" outside the woman's restroom may be ideal, or even a small closet that has access to nearby water, soap and paper towels. This area should be able to either be locked or have a screen for privacy.

3. You will need a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet, and a table to hold the breast pump and books or other personal possessions.

4. Depending on the number of people who wish to use the room, you may need to set up a system for scheduling the room. Find someone who would be willing to be in charge of the scheduling, and if necessary, handling the keys to the room.

5. A bulletin board for pictures of the babies is a nice touch; also a log for people to share their experiences and offer support may be helpful.

Michigan has further taken the initiative to develop a lactation room privacy sign, which can be downloaded in both JPEG and EPS file format (intended for professional printers or sign manufacturers for sign production). This professional quality sign should become a standard icon to mark any lactation area. Just print and post at your chosen location.

Lactation Services
Both The University of Arizona and The University of Michigan offer lactation and breast pump rental services to help support breastfeeding parents.

The University of Arizona's Life & Work Connections office has implemented an innovative new lactation program called "Mommy Connections" which assists and supports breastfeeding campus moms by providing a one-time discount off the purchase price of a personal-grade breast pump or subsidizes the first month's rental of a personal-grade breast pump through the University Medical Center-UMC. In addition, The University of Arizona provides consultations with lactation specialists, as well as FAQs for working with a lactation consultant. Read more about this program at: http://lifework.arizona.edu/cc/lactation_information.

Michigan also supports breastfeeding parents by providing a list of lactation consultants and breast pump rental service providers, as well as providing links to breastfeeding support services and organizations. Read more about Michigan's program at: http://www.uofmhealth.org/medical-services/breastfeeding

In combination with each school's broad range of family support services, including child and elder care programs, each of these schools are helping to set the standard for model student parent services.

My thanks to Caryn Jung at The University of Arizona and Leslie de Pietro at Michigan for their terrific support and resources.

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