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A guide to lactation spaces at UNC

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Lactation room 3200 is located on the third floor of the student union and is available upon request.

Currently, University students, faculty and visitors have access to over 30 lactation rooms on UNC’s campus and owned property. 

Lactation rooms, private and safe spaces dedicated to nursing and pumping, are separate from public restrooms. On campus locations include the Frank Porter Graham Student Union, Gillings School of Global Public Health and the School of Social Work.

In addition to adequate lighting and seating, UNC’s lactation policy also requires lactation rooms to have a door that can be secured and electrical outlets for pumping equipment. 

Some buildings, like the Gillings School of Global Public Health, provide other amenities, like lockers for nursing people or a refrigerator to store milk in. 

To use lactation spaces, people can request access by contacting the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office's Accommodations team at accommodations@unc.edu with their name and PID. Different facilities and departments may also have their own point of contact and process for gaining permission.

Because not every building on campus has a lactation room, many students, faculty and guests rely on resources like the UNC's Campus Lactation Guide to find available spaces and read more about University policies.

Tiffany Bailey, director of equal opportunity and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator with the EOC Office, said in an email statement that if additional spaces are needed, the office will work with people to identify appropriate spaces. 

Whether juggling the demands of being a nursing parent in college or simply visiting campus, Samuel Deal, facility planner at the School of Social Work said that lactation rooms are especially essential in higher education.

Due to the stigma surrounding breastfeeding and pumping, Dr. Alice Chuang, associate dean for student affairs at UNC School of Medicine and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said private spaces also aid people, like students, who may feel uncomfortable nursing in front of their classmates.

“I think the more awareness that we bring to our community, the more likely we are to realize that these spaces are truly needed, and the resources that we have, we should really focus them on those spaces,” Deal said.

Breastfeeding and pumping can also be very difficult, Chuang said. Between demanding feeding times, work obligations, lack of communal support and simply getting their baby to cooperate, she said, nursing people are more likely to quit breastfeeding. 

Chuang said lactation rooms are also an important tool in promoting the health of both nursing people and their babies.

She said that breast milk is a “nutritionally perfect” source of food, and that breastfeeding can pass healthy immunities from disease to the baby through the breast milk. Breastfeeding can also help decrease bleeding that birthing people may experience after delivery, she said.

Lactation rooms support these health benefits by providing a safe space for lactating people to nurse, she said, even for those who cannot breastfeed or bring their child to work or class.

While Deal said lactation rooms should be as “common as a restroom" with no permission needed, he recognized the challenges and expense that adding more rooms on campus would cause. Some of these challenges, he said, can be attributed to the age of several buildings on campus. 

“Oftentimes it can be expensive for individual departments to absorb the cost of retrofitting these old buildings and old spaces with the necessary fixtures and finishes that are appropriate for a clean, respectable lactation room,” Deal said.

Deal said there are simple mechanisms that could help improve the access and awareness of lactation rooms on campus. For example, additional signage could allow people to easily locate the rooms instead of having to ask for help. This is important, he said, because people may not be comfortable asking about where they can nurse.

"Anything that we can do as a society and a community to help promote that and help continue that for somebody who wants to do it is going to honestly, not just benefit that baby and that mom, but in the long term, benefit the society,” Chuang said. “And help promote breastfeeding in general as a healthy sort of practice, and if there is stigma, to take that stigma away.”

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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