College’s New Lactation Rooms Support, Delight Working Mothers

OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego recently opened 11 lactation rooms in buildings across campus, providing privacy and comfort for nursing mothers among its employees, students and visitors.

Nursing mother Selena Miller, office assistant in SUNY Oswego's School of Education, says her supportive boss, curriculum and instruction chair Marcia Burrell, lent her office to Miller for pumping before the recent advent of lactation spaces on campus, including this one on Hewitt Union's lower level.
Nursing mother Selena Miller, office assistant in SUNY Oswego’s School of Education, says her supportive boss, curriculum and instruction chair Marcia Burrell, lent her office to Miller for pumping before the recent advent of lactation spaces on campus, including this one on Hewitt Union’s lower level.

“It is terrific that faculty, staff, visitors and students that are nursing mothers now have access to the use of lactation rooms on campus,” said Amy Plotner, assistant vice president for human resources at the college. “This is an important aspect of ensuring accessible, private, safe, and specifically designated spaces that will help provide a supportive environment on campus.”

Under President Deborah F. Stanley, SUNY Oswego has focused resources on recruiting a diverse workforce, and addressing issues that are uniquely important to women is a part of that effort. Fall 2015 figures show the college has about 761 women among its 1,478 full- and part-time employees.

“The philosophy behind this project is employee-centered and it is my goal to ensure maximum flexibility in the use of these spaces,” Plotner said. “I am thrilled with the momentum and the impact of this important project and hope that having convenient access will serve as a true benefit to the campus community.”

Lactation rooms, with more to come, are in Marano Campus Center, Sheldon Hall and Penfield Library; a variety of academic buildings such as Shineman Center and Hewitt Union; and in several residence halls and a dining center, according to Linda Paris, project manager for Facilities Services, whose passion for the endeavor has sprung from personal experience. She’s a nursing mother to Grayson and Damian.

“We as a college are really on the cutting edge, having so many lactation spaces in such a relatively small footprint,” Paris said.

Mothers applaud

Faculty, staff and student moms hailed the advent of the roomy, lockable spaces, which provide two kinds of comfortable chairs, a table and power outlets in a carpeted, serene setting appropriate for either breastfeeding or pumping.

Laura Lamb, visiting assistant professor of accounting and mother of Connor: “It’s wonderful. It’s just downstairs (in Rich Hall). I’m able to pump so I can keep breastfeeding my son.”

Mom to Levi, office assistant Selena Miller in the School of Education’s curriculum and instruction department: “Breastfeeding is crucial. Being able to pump milk so my baby can be fed while I’m away is a blessing.”

Alicia Wise, a senior accounting major, commuter from Fulton and mother of Grey: “I think the idea is so good. It’s secure and I feel safe. I think it’s essential — it’s a big perk.”

The beginning

Discussion of challenges for working mothers, including lactation spaces, began in meetings of history faculty member Gwen Kay, vice president and secretary of the University Faculty Senate, and faculty senators Diana Boyer, formerly of atmospheric and geological sciences, and Kristen Eichhorn of the communication studies faculty.

In her 2015-16 role bridging faculty and administration, Eichhorn, then a faculty fellow in the President’s Office — and also a mother — strongly advocated for measures to assist working moms.

“President Stanley said, “‘Absolutely. What are some of the things we can do?'” said Eichhorn. When she proposed lactation spaces and told Stanley how women had to pump in borrowed offices or cars or bathrooms, Eichhorn recalled the president saying, “‘Draw a budget, tell me what we need and let’s do something about it.'”

Eichhorn said working with Paris, Plotner and Mitch Fields, associate vice president for Facilities Services, on the project “was amazing. I think one of the most inspiring parts of this process was that everyone believed in the mission and worked collaboratively to bring it to life.”

Lactation rooms are present in the following SUNY Oswego locations: 121 Rich Hall, 35E Hewitt Union, 188 Shineman Center, a former communication room on the second floor of Mackin Hall, 117 Sheldon Hall, 10 Lakeside Dining Hall, 305 Penfield Library, 235 Marano Campus Center, and lower-level spaces in Funnelle, Onondaga and Seneca residence halls.