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Canadian university opens dedicated space on campus to encourage breastfeeding

In this May 3, 2016 file photo, 16-year-old Madeley Vasquez breastfeeds her one-year-old son Joangel as she waits in line outside a supermarket to buy food in Caracas, Venezuela. Image via AP.

Canada’s University of Windsor recently opened a breastfeeding room inside Chrysler Hall Tower for students and faculty members to breastfeed their children in a quiet, private atmosphere, Windsor Star reported.

“This is really exciting for faculty and the entire university community,” said Sarah Lopez, an obstetrics nurse at Windsor Regional Hospital and a sessional instructor in nursing at the university.

“Breastfeeding has always been welcome anywhere on campus, but for many moms, they’re looking for something a bit more private,” she added.

Before this, the university’s Office of Human Rights, Equity, and Accessibility had no available space when it used to occupy a smaller area in one of the older homes on campus.

According to Kaye Johnson, the office’s director, faculty and staff who wished to breastfeed their children had to seek privacy in someone’s office. She knows of another colleague who used to bring around a cooler of breast milk.

When plans were made to shift the office, the university sought to remedy these shortcomings.

“It’s been in discussions in a variety of areas across campus,” said Johnson. “Now that we have new office space in the Chrysler Hall Tower, we saw this as an opportunity to have a breastfeeding room.”

The new breastfeeding room not only provides a private, quiet space to breastfeed, but allows mothers to pump and store their milk there. Room No. 320 also has a fridge, a microwave, an electric kettle and a couch.

Having somewhere to properly store breast milk “is a great opportunity to promote breastfeeding,” Lopez said.

She added that the dedicated space and storage is in line with the province’s Baby Friendly Initiative which aims at protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding.

Education professors Susan Holloway and Karen Roland are really pleased with this new development. Recalling an incident with a student who said she may be late for class because she had to pump breast milk in a downstairs washroom, Holloway said, “I’m a mother myself and I thought that’s just not right.”

“Sometimes our students are in class from eight in the morning until eight at night. It’s quite a demanding program. It’s hard enough, especially if you’re a mature student, to balance your responsibilities to your family and having any type of career and being a student. It’s important to have systemic support to women and to families,” said Holloway.

The lack of space is a problem affecting breastfeeding mothers in campuses worldwide. Pumping milk is a physical and timely necessity throughout the workday. Without a university-provided space, mothers can become engorged and leak, which can be embarrassing.

University of Windsor’s new dedicated space will greatly help female students and faculty in returning and staying in their studies and work after giving birth.

The university’s efforts to support breastfeeding also include the When You Need It app, launched in January 2015. The app provides parents with answers to frequently asked breastfeeding questions and allows them to track feedings, diaper changes, and records of their child’s growth.

It was created in partnership with the Building Blocks for Better Babies Program at the University of Windsor, the school’s faculty of nursing, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, and the university’s school of computer science, with support from the Government of Ontario through Health Nexus.

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