Designing Workplace Lactation Spaces in the COVID Era
By Sascha Mayer, Mamava Cofounder + Chief Experience Officer
Breastfeeding parents have always been concerned about having clean workplace lactation accommodations because they’re bringing milk home to their baby. Now, in the COVID era, they’re even more aware of sanitization and personal hygiene. As employers pandemic-proof their work environments, it’s essential that they provide a dedicated lactation space that meets the needs of their breastfeeding employees. Borrowed offices and make-shift spaces have never been satisfactory lactation spaces, but now it’s more important than ever that employees have a clean and private place to pump at work. Here’s a list of lactation space must-haves.
Designed for food preparation
Breastfeeding employees are making food for their babies, so lactation spaces must be clean and hygienic. If you’re not sure if your space fits the bill, the litmus test is a simple one: Would you make and eat your lunch in it? If the answer is no, then it’s not an appropriate space to express milk. Full stop.
Easy to clean and sanitize
Effective workplace lactation accommodations are designed so breastfeeding employees can spot clean before, and after, they express milk. Easy-to-clean surfaces and furnishings are key. Providing on-site sanitization supplies such as wipes and hand sanitizer can limit the transmission of microbes and decrease the supplies parents have to pack in their pump bag. To help ensure that lactation spaces are disinfected and cleaned, it’s helpful to include them on the same schedule as workplace restrooms.
Comfortable and well ventilated
At a minimum, a workplace lactation accommodation needs to provide parents with a comfortable place to sit, a surface and outlets for their pump (as well as other devices), and have a locking door. Additionally, as workplaces invest in air filters and upgrades in ventilation systems, it’s important to remember that the same standard should apply to lactation spaces.
Breastfeeding employees have to pump on a predictable schedule to maintain their milk supply and avoid engorgement. Having a secure, private lactation accommodation that’s available when breastfeeding employees need it—and designed to suit the physiological needs of pumping—goes a long way in giving employees peace of mind. In the COVID era, it’s even more important that the space be solely dedicated to lactation, rather than a multi-use room. Sharing a space with other wellness activities, such as meditation or exercise classes, can create disruptions in scheduling and turn what should be a clean oasis into a highly-trafficked communal space.