I was probably destined to. My Mother is a Lactation Consultant (LC) for over 30 years, she’s an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) certified, co-founder and Past President of WALC (Wisconsin Association of Lactation Consultants), and led breastfeeding support groups. My mother never said no to helping or passed judgement on a mother’s desire or ability to nurse. She always made herself accessible to moms, so I grew up with new moms calling our home when they had questions and issues since babies are unaware of business hours. I ended up knowing more than most medical professionals about the ins and outs of breastfeeding issues how so many mothers loved the experience.
When I was pregnant with my first son there was no question that I would nurse my son. Not because my mother was mandating it but because I knew all the benefits of it and wanted to try it for myself. My first experience with nursing was not what I was expecting. It was a struggle to get started; my son and I were both exhausted from the day’s events, we were both brand new at this, and when we finally got the hang of it, it hurt! After we figured things out nursing thankfully went pretty smoothly. When the occasional issue came up it was nice to have an LC on speed dial. With my first son I was basically an at home mom and nursing away from home wasn’t too big of an issue. The local mall had nursing rooms and being as confident as I was I usually just nursed him in public with a blanket.
I nursed my second son, again without much issue but this time I got a part time job requiring the need to pump while away. My first day was a nightmare. I had access to one space but it was a bit too public for my comfort so I found a single use bathroom. Despite locking the door and putting my foot in front of the door, the lock failed and despite my best efforts to push against it the man on the other side forced his way in to see what I was doing. He thankfully immediately left. Despite my discomfort that was it for me and I put everything away. The next day I worked I found a space that was pretty hidden, again a single use bathroom which ended up being my Lactation Room. I wasn’t excited that it was a bathroom but I was glad that it was hidden and I was comfortable. Yes I had every right to ask for a space but I wasn’t brave enough yet.
With my third son I was on the WI Chapter board of the professional association I belonged to, ASID. Needing to attend more events and meetings meant finding a place to pump became more of an issue. This brought up questions and fears. Where will I pump? Who do I ask to see if there is a place to pump? Will the person I ask understand why I’m asking or what I’m asking for? Will this question be met with derision or with acceptance? If there isn’t a space should I even go? Maybe I could just bring the baby…he would be quiet. The first few times I had an event to go to I didn’t ask. Leading me to pump in the parking lot of the space the event was held. People giving me weird looks as they walked by seeing a woman sitting in her car with a blanket draped across her chest. Ugh!
Thankfully when I started asking for a space to pump in the women that helped me find a space where the events were held were so gracious in sharing their office with me, or some room at the event to use. Many times they then shared their stories about struggling to find a place to pump. It helped build my confidence to continue to ask for a space when a meeting or conference came up.
My a-ha moment came when I attended an event at a conference center. When I arrived I approached the receptionist, an older woman in her late 60’s and asked her if there was a place I could pump. She looked at me a bit perplexed; a bit exasperated and said I was the fifth or sixth woman to ask that day! She couldn’t understand what was this sudden need for a place to pump? She directed me to a space that turned out to be a vending area with no outlets and no doors, nothing close to acceptable. Figuring that I was going to be in my car again to pump, I did find a single use bathroom. It had a table and chair in it but the outlet was clear across the room by the sink (it was a surprisingly big bathroom) so I used that space.
As I was sitting in the conferences that day I couldn’t help but return to that woman’s comment. Four or five other women had asked that day for a space to pump in. How many other women needed a space and didn’t ask? How was it that she didn’t know what kind of space I needed and directed me to such a poor option? How could I use my experience as a nursing mom, and an interior designer to help other moms and those they ask for help? It dawned on me how many facilities and businesses could benefit from a Lactation Room…
- Educational facilities to support their students, staff and visitors.
- Professional sport venues to support their fans and if applicable conference attendees and employees, and build fan loyalty.
- Conference centers; my experience had 6-7 women ask for a space. Granted that isn’t going to make or break a conference attendee list but why have that be a reason for someone not to attend.
- Small to Mid-size businesses, build company culture, retain current staff and recruit new talent.
The niche for my Interior Design business was realized. I want to help those businesses I listed and so many others elevate their staff, goals and bottom line through a Lactation Room. I want to help mom’s realize their goals or need to be a working nursing mother. The two should not be an either or decision, instead mutually beneficial to the employee and employer.
Since my experience options are much more available but still not everywhere. Examples of successful options in my opinion are:
- Nursing Mothers Room at Mt Mary University in Milwaukee which TRP Design Group, LLC designed
- Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati
- Mamava nursing pods (two are located at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Air Port, and Milwaukee County Zoo)
The last two I have visited, both of which I am extremely impressed by. They are receiving receptive welcomes, being constantly used, and due to demand there are plans for expanding.
I’m eager to see where TRP Design Group, LLC through my experiences and background can help your business elevate the attendance, retention, recruitment, culture, or goals you have. If you would like to learn more, get help asking for a space where you work or visit or get started on your own Lactation Room project contact me!