Not pleased with your company’s lactation facilities? For the next couple of days, until February 13, you can submit photos of the pumping accommodations at your workplace for a chance to win a pumping room makeover. “Scary Pump Rooms,” a nationwide contest launched by Tommee Tippee, a baby products company, was designed to find the worst pump room in America and have it professionally redesigned and stocked with pumping essentials.
Almost 50% of women who have been surveyed by Fairygodboss report facilities that they feel are inadequate, so I expect Tommee Tippee will be receiving a good number of submissions that show rooms that look like bathroom stalls or cramped and dirty utility closets.
Entries will be narrowed down to four finalists, and the public will vote on the scariest room of all.
Tommee Tippee’s contest is bringing some much-needed transparency -- literally -- to the shoddy state of many pumping rooms in America. But it’s also going a step further by encouraging workplace managers and owners to take an online pledge to confirm their commitment to making positive change to their pump rooms.
I checked in with Sharon Swan, director of North American Marketing at Tommee Tippee, to get her insight on what the ideal lactation room environment at work should look like. Swan told me:
In an ideal world, every working mom would have a private and comfortable space in which to pump. It's helpful for the room to be physically removed enough from her work space for her to be able to mentally distance herself from work while she pumps. A calm and private environment is essential. Comfortable seating and an outlet to power her pump and charge her phone/laptop is a must. In a perfect world, you’d also have a sink, refrigerator, and a place to store your pumping gear to eliminate the need to haul everything back and forth each day. And snacks and water certainly don't hurt.
It may seem superfluous to focus on these little details, but better pumping rooms send a message that an employer is supportive of new mothers during a time when they are most stressed about how to balance their new family obligations with their job and careers.
In fact, many working moms have shared with Fairygodboss that one of the most difficult things about returning to work is the period of having to juggle breastfeeding and pumping with work. During this very vulnerable time in a woman's career, every every little gesture is appreciated.
Federal law on breastfeeding requirements states that employers provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." But what should you do if your employer just doesn't seem to meet the standard?
Swan suggests that you can approach your employer to have a conversation about "improving an existing space or creating a new pumping room. Always make sure the door has a lock,” she says, “and make the room bookable (if possible) so moms can claim the time they need to pump."
Swan recommends that employers have a refrigerator that is reserved for breast milk only, comfortable seating, and a cabinet with extra pumping supplies. "We know there are many circumstances and spaces in which moms pump. Any small change you can make can make a difference, even if it’s as simple as making sure there are paper towels and a trash can in the room."
Hopefully the “Scary Pump Room” contest will inspire other similar efforts to help generate awareness of the ways companies can support their new moms.
As Swan says, it doesn't have to take a lot of effort to make an important difference!
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.
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