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College of Health Sciences Receives Award for Establishment of Lactation Room

By Irvin B. Harrell

Old Dominion University's College of Health Sciences received a 2016 Business Investment in Babies (BIB) award this month for providing a dedicated on-campus space for breastfeeding mothers.

The BIB program honors businesses that took part in the Breastfeeding Welcome Here project, which was conducted by the Consortium for Infant and Child Health (CINCH) at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in 2015. The College of Health Sciences not only pledged its support for the program, but put up signage and made a special space designation for a lactation room.

"Although the college is very tight on space, we dedicated a private office for this compelling initiative to assist breastfeeding mothers in providing healthy beginnings for their babies," said Dean Shelley C. Mishoe, of the College of Health Sciences. "Thanks to the administration, our nursing students and all involved for their efforts to participate in the Breastfeeding Welcome Here project in support of women, children and families. It reinforces our mission to provide leadership in health care and a quality learning environment."

The college received the award at a special EVMS ceremony on Oct. 26.

The college was selected for the award due to its "commitment to encourage new and future moms to feel more comfortable nursing in public places," said Amy Paulson, director of the consortium.

For nursing mothers, expressing milk at work or school can be problematic due to a lack of facilities. Health experts say breast milk contains cells, hormones and antibodies that protect babies from illness. Breastfeeding also is linked to lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression in women.

The college was approached to take part in the initiative in the spring of 2014, said Debbie Bauman, assistant dean for the college. "We created a temporary space for breastfeeding in Fall 2014 and created a permanent space in Spring 2015."

The college used "best practice" guidelines from the American Institute of Architects to design the room. It is equipped with two comfortable chairs, a mirror, hangers for clothing, a microwave, a baby rocker and a refrigerator. There is even a place from mothers to put up pictures of their children.

Leanne White, the director of advising for the College of Health Sciences, uses the lactation room and says it has been a blessing.

"Breastfeeding is a commitment. It's tough to balance work or school and meeting the needs of your child," she said. "The lactation room is very comfortable and a great resource for ladies who need a private place to pump."

In early 2015, Old Dominion University adopted a policy to establish lactation rooms on its main campus and higher education centers. The policy provides guidelines for the availability of appropriate spaces and break times for nursing mothers. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, amended under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide time and private space, other than a bathroom, in which to express milk, for a year after a child's birth.

The University Women's Caucus and the Department of Human Resources worked together to complete the project. A $1,400 grant from the Consortium for Infant and Child Health, and administered by Eastern Virginia Medical School, assisted in the purchase of furniture for the rooms.

For more information about the availability of lactation rooms on campus, visit the University website.

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