Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making a Difference For Mamas

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Let me be clear about this. I am nobody's role model when it comes to parenting. I am somewhat of a pariah within my family of mainstream parents, and most of my friends chuckle and shrug at my crunchy ways.

Having said this, I have accomplished something that will make an impact for mothers in the future - mothers I have never met, who I may never meet, and who will never know my contribution. I am getting a nursing/lactation room built in my work organization's new building.

About one year ago, I was still pumping three times a day for my then almost one-year old. My workspace is comprised largely of cubicles and shared offices. I was fortunate that, although I share an office with a man, I was typically able to find a spare office in which to pump. One day when my officemate was not there, I closed my non-locking door to pump, and in the middle of my session, who should open the door and walk right on in but the director of my entire department. Umm, yeah that was awkward.

I posted a quick note to a local Yahoo mama list to cringe at the fact that I had to give a presentation to the department later that day. One of the responses I received suggested I use the presentation as an opportunity to suggest that the organization create a room for working nursing mothers to help avoid embarrassing walk-ins. Another posted a link with information regarding corporate lactation programs. It dawned on me - due to the passage of the stimulus bill my organization had received funds specifically for the design and construction of a LEED certified green building. The project manager was soliciting feedback and ideas from employees regarding the design. So, I wrote a proposal for inclusion of a facility in which nursing mothers could pump breastmilk.

I confess I was surprised my proposal was received so well. I work predominantly with engineers - male engineers. I wasn't sure if my proposal would be viewed as a woman asking for special privilege. But here is the response I got when I inquired about the status just last month:

I think that your suggestion was great.
We incorporated it into the Criteria Package, and I will ensure that it is carried through and fully developed in the design process.
Thanks for the input and engagement. It is always wonderful and rewarding to work with stakeholders who are involved.
If you have any future thoughts regarding design considerations, please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime.

Can I just say… YAY!!!

And here is the proposal that won them over (with *This Organization* substituted for the name of my company):

*This Organization* is in the unique position of being able to design and build a new workplace facility. This is a great opportunity to address an employee need that is lacking at current workspaces. Currently, there is no facility in existing buildings appropriate for women who are new mothers returning to work after maternity leave and need to pump breast milk. When an empty office is available, women can use the empty office; however, the only alternative is the bathroom. These facilities are not adequate or appropriate for this purpose for the following reasons:

• Practicality (you need somewhere to set up a pump near an electrical outlet, something to hold collection bottles, a surface on which to package the milk, a place to sit, and consistent light in the room that will not automatically turn off after 5-10 minutes).
• Unsanitary conditions (this is food for a newborn).
• Lack of privacy (pumping is a very personal and sometimes difficult process; quiet and privacy are preferable.)

I propose that the design for the new building include a private area to be used by nursing mothers. This will provide not only the obvious benefits to the new mother and the new baby, but some distinct benefits to *This Organization*:

• A breast-fed baby is a healthier baby. Healthier babies mean fewer stay-at-home days for mom. In addition, a healthier baby means fewer medical expenses, which is a tremendous financial incentive for federal health insurers.
• An employee with fewer concerns for the welfare of her child is more able to fully focus on her job.
• An employee with a convenient, sanitary, and private location for pumping will have more options in scheduling her day (for example, not having to take long lunches to drive home).
• When recruiting new employees, such facilities may make *This Organization* more competitive and attractive for potential employees that are or soon will be of child-bearing age.
• Elimination of embarrassing walk-ins into non-locking offices (of which I personally have experienced once, and almost a second time)

To set up a basic facility, the following things would be needed:

• A small room with a lock on the door
• A chair and small table
• An electrical outlet

In addition, it would be helpful to have easy access to a small sink and refrigerator from the room.

I hope that you will consider my proposal and see what a valuable contribution this small addition to the design of the new building can make in the quality of life for a potentially significant number of our employees. By building a LEED-certified building, *This Organization* is staying on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability. I would like to see *This Organization* stay on the cutting edge of providing a healthy work environment and excellent benefits for employees also. I believe this would be a step in that direction.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. You ROCK!! I am incredibly proud of you for making such an enormous difference in countless women's lives. And don't sell yourself short - I am sure, through real life connections or your writing here, that you have inspired many mothers.

  2. What a difference you made! And by including your proposal in your Carnival of Natural Parenting blog post, who knows how many other people and organizations you could influence positively!

  3. Congratulations! I'm so super proud of you for suggesting that change for the new building, and what a great proposal you put together. Thanks for sharing it word for word, because I bet it will be something that's copied and used by other women in similar situations. And as I read Deb's comment, I realize other companies might see it as well and be inspired. Good for you for looking out for other women who might be pumping at your company, now or in the future.

  4. You absolutely rock. This is the kind of stuff that goes down in history and you should be so proud of yourself. I swear if more people just felt more comfortable standing up for their rights and the rights of others a lot of the world's problems wouldn't be issues. Your courage and drive is very inspiring!

  5. WOW! This is so exciting and strangely serendipitous! I'm pushing for this at work right now as well. What are the chances. They are building several new buildings at my campus (I work for NASA) and the buildings are all LEED as well. I may just have to "steal" your proposal and some of your links! I just can't believe how timely this is for me! Thanks so much! :)

  6. Thank you! I will be sharing your post with women who are in similar positions in Australia. I'm sure they'll get some more useful material to get this happening in their workplaces too.

    This is Role Model Plus - the deluxe model(TM) that you've performed!

  7. This is AWESOME. You say you're not a parenting role model, but I think you are. You're advocating for mothers, and there's no better criteria for defining a role model than that.

  8. YOU ARE AMAZING!! To think of all the future mommas you helped... you ROCK!

  9. What an excellent post and how exciting that your company is going to incorporate a pumping room in the new building! Thanks for sharing the text of your proposal - I'm bookmarking this page to share with others in the future. Now that the health care reform bill has required larger companies to provide a private, non-bathroom space for mothers to pump, I'm hoping that more small companies will also jump on the bandwagon to provide this "benefit" (what I consider to be a human right) to female employees. Your post could help them figure out how to do that