Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is a touchy subject that very few people actually want to raise. The decision of how to feed one’s baby is ultimately left up to the mother, but there are a number of factors that will determine whether or not a woman is able to exclusively nurse her child long-term, including the support networks she has in place.
In saying this, it is extremely important to consider how the workplace supports a nursing mother in her return to work and how universities are supporting students and staff with young children. Continued breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization up to the age of two and beyond, and with the majority of women returning to work full-time after one year of giving birth, it is critically important that employers have policies, practices, and facilities in place to support female employees and their families.
A few universities in Canada are leading the way. Queens, UBC, U of T and Trent, just to name a few, all provide great examples of how Universities can support their staff and students with young families.
The Presidential Advisory Council on Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility (PACHREA) at Trent has a breastfeeding Sub-Committee which focuses on five areas to support, accommodate, and educate faculty, staff, and students. Queen’s University offers over half a dozen breastfeeding spaces and baby change-tables on campus, while UBC offers private and semi-private spaces in multiple buildings on multiple campuses. Moreover, at U of T, a designated Family Care Office offers resources about childcare, family leaves, and support programs, as well as over two dozen Baby Change Stations and Breastfeeding friendly spaces.
At Brock, I personally know of many women who have either chosen not to breastfeed their babies so that they could return to work early or who wean their children at one year so that they do not have to schedule pumping into their workday. Of the women I have spoken with and who have made these choices, many lacked private office spaces and did not feel comfortable asking their supervisor for accommodations for them. Ultimately, the decision to wean their infants was made because of a perceived lack of support at the University.
Keeping up milk supply while you are working full time is no easy feat. It takes planning, work, and dedication. For someone who doesn’t have the luxury of a private office space, this means approaching a supervisor to make accommodations for your pumping needs, a conversation I know very few women are comfortable having.
While the recently appointed quiet room, located in WH 102A, is well appreciated, it is only convenient if your work space is located close by, if you know that it exists, and if you have the courage to reach out to get approved for an access code by Human Resources. Another downfall of the room is that it does not provide much for women who need to feed and change their babies on site, as there is no change table nearby.
A welcome addition to Brock would be more flex rooms that are clearly labelled and set up for students, staff, and community members who need to provide milk for their children. The rooms don’t need to be fancy or have to have lock codes; they can be multi-purpose rooms that departments recognize as being a breastfeeding friendly space, with reminders that women are welcome to nurse their infants anywhere on campus. And conversations need to take place with senior management and their staff about the resources Brock can put into place to accommodate female staff and students who are working, studying, and raising families.
With that, there is a small group of likeminded students, staff and faculty members who meet regularly to discuss making Brock a more baby friendly campus. It is the mandate of the committee to facilitate change on campus by engaging key stakeholders in conversation, develop internal and external partnerships, and raise awareness about women’s rights. If you would like to join the conversation, please like Baby Friendly Brock on Facebook and send a private message!