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Supporting Lactation through Partnership with Nursing Moms

By Danielle Clair, HR Communications intern.

Jennie McAlpine has been committed to developing programs and resources to promote a healthy work/life balance for staff since she joined the university as director of Work/Life Programs in 2006. “A balanced work and home life is important so that people can thrive in their interests and all of the things that they care about,” says McAlpine.

Jennie McAlpine and Barb Mulay photo

Jennie McAlpine, Work/Life Programs director and manager Barb Mulay are partnering with working mothers in the U-M community to improve campus lactation facilities.

McAlpine brings over 30 years of extensive experience working with children and families to the university. One of her current priorities is to improve campus lactation facilities —spaces where nursing mothers can pump milk while at work. “Developing safe, warm, clean spaces for lactation for new moms, translates into healthier, more relaxed mothers who can take better care of their families and bring more energy to their jobs,” says McAlpine.

As part of that effort, McAlpine, along with her Work/Life Programs staff, is currently gathering feedback from working mothers within the U-M community.  

Focus groups comprised of mothers that are currently using lactation rooms or have used the rooms in the past have proven to be beneficial in the process of improving U-M lactation room facilities. “We are looking at what we have and ways to advocate for better space so moms have a comfortable place to go,” says Barb Mulay, WLRC manager.

Suggestions that have emerged from these discussions have provided helpful feedback emphasizing the need for clean, comfortable, secure spaces equipped with refrigerators for milk storage and microwaves for sterilization. Another suggestion to provide WI-Fi connectivity would enable lactating mothers to continue working even while pumping, which can take up to 30 minutes, typically several times during the workday.

U-M’s newest, most up-to-date lactation rooms, located in the new C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital incorporate many of the design features suggested by mothers who have participated in the focus groups.

In addition to improving and increasing the number of lactation room facilities, Work/Life Resource Center maintains a list of lactation room locations on their website to help nursing mothers find locations close to where they work.

Even as the lactation rooms are being improved, participants in the focus groups and nursing mothers have expressed their appreciation for the support they receive from the university, their colleagues and their department managers to have and use the rooms so that they can be successful in continuing to produce a milk supply for their babies during the work day.