By WMM Guest Contributor: Jamie Morrissey
It's easy to feel like Superwoman when you make your postpartum return to the office. Between creating the miracle of life and stepping back to your career, there’s a lot to be proud of. There's also a few extra needs added to your workday.
Employers have started to understand just how these life changes affect working moms' day-to-day routine. Legislation exists to provide companies a set of bare-bones standards to follow, as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Reviewing these guidelines is a good jumping off point to create an accommodating and holistic space at work for nursing, also known as a mothers room.
It's Gotta Be Tough
When it comes to seating and furniture, it's not an option to skimp on strength. A healthcare-grade recliner is a must, since its construction is designed to be easy-to-clean and durable. Polyurethane or hydrophobic fabric upholstery is used for these products as they're tested to stand up to a variety of heavy-duty solvents.
All the Amenities
A few things are non-negotiable in a mothers room. Most importantly, a safe, secure, and separate mini-fridge should be provided to store milk throughout the workday, allowing enough room for multiple mothers to share the space. A set of locking storage lockers or cabinets allow modern moms to keep pumps, blankets and other supplies in a neat, tidy and out-of-the-way area. These amenities are what transform a simple wellness area into a space where new mothers can thrive.
Above and Beyond
After you've managed the musts, there's a few considerations that go above and beyond what's necessary. A sink is an invaluable addition and it's often worth rerouting plumbing to add this feature. From simple cleanup to serious scrubbing of bottles and parts, a sink with a drying rack, sponges, and soaps will bolster hygiene and keep the mothers room nice and clean between uses.
Aesthetics are Everything
Motherhood is a joyous experience and keeping the mood light at work can start with an energizing paint color and uplifting artwork in the mothers room. Choose ungendered colors and patterns that coordinate with furniture and storage choices as well. As an added, personal touch, put up a bulletin board and encourage new moms to post pictures of their little ones. It's proven that happy women have an easier time expressing milk, so do what you can to put a smile on their faces while they're taking time to pump.
For Multiple Moms
Smaller companies can make do with a single, closed-door mothers room, however larger operations will need something more comprehensive. Sometimes a larger room with sectioned-off spaces will be the best solution. With each additional space, try to make sure there's as much privacy as possible by considering stalls with closed doors or hanging cubicle curtains in easy-to-clean waterproof fabric. To manage traffic, make the mothers rooms bookable on a shared Outlook calendar and ensure the appropriate doors lock and have vacancy signs on the outside.
Mother Knows Best
When it comes to a new mom's needs, the most valuable source of information is just that—a mom. In an appropriate, caring manner, HR or the person in charge of creating a mothers room should chat with veteran mothers in the office and gain first-hand insight into what made their experience coming back to work great and what might have been lacking. Whether it's from their tenure in your office or from their time at a previous company, they've been there, done that, and can be an invaluable resource.
As mothers rooms become normalized in the workplace, there's more and more information on companies that are doing great things for their nursing moms. Check out Working Moms of Milwaukee's 2019 Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Awards to see what other companies—both large and small—are including in their offices.
Written by Jamie Morrissey, purchasing manager at National Business Furniture (NBF), who led the creation of a modern mothers room at NBF. Found in 1975, this Milwaukee-based company offers quality furniture and service to corporate offices, government facilities, and more.
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