The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide a secure and private lactation room for breastfeeding employees who need to pump at work. For many businesses, however, finding an appropriate free space or building out a whole new room can be difficult. In addition, effective lactation space design needs to address three core areas: legislation, user experience, and available space. If you have a small office space, budget constraints, or need a lactation space that will serve multiple moms simultaneously, here are three aspects of design to keep in mind.
1) Design That Balances Legal Requirements with Real World Need
Legislation mandates that a space cannot be a bathroom and must be free from intrusion, but many other factors are left up to companies. How can you design a space that’s in compliance while also meeting the needs of users? The first step is to assess existing, as well as anticipated, need. You’ll also want to factor in planned and projected future growth of your company’s physical space:
- How many female employees (and guests) will need the space?
- What is the current available square footage?
- What distance will breast pumping women need to travel to access the space?
- How many women will the space accommodate?
- Does current available space line up with future need?
2) Design For User Experience
Breastfeeding women who pump at work have unique physiological needs. First and foremost, pumping women need to feel secure and at ease. Lactation spaces should ensure privacy, a lock, and a comfortable place to sit for extended periods of time without fear of disruption. In addition, they also need an outlet where they can plug in their breast pump, as well as laptops and other devices. Pumping moms are efficient multi-taskers, so smart lactation space designs include an easy-to-clean flexible work surface so moms have the option to pump and keep up with work at the same time.
3) Design For Small Spaces
For companies with limited space, providing a temporary or makeshift lactation space may seem like a viable option. Lactation spaces, however, are rarely a one-off. Rather than cobble together temporary solutions over and over, the sooner companies can provide dedicated lactation spaces that meet the needs of breast pumping employees, the better. Lactation spaces don't need to be large, but they do need to provide comfortable space for women to plug in a breast pump multiple times a day. In fact, for organizations with multiple pumping employees, one dedicated lactation room is not enough. It’s a far more efficient use of space and employee time to offer a lactation room that can accommodate multiple pumping moms with separate private areas for each one. Ask any employer who has experienced the baby boom phenomenon –it’s real!
Lactation space design needs to satisfy three important requirements:
1) it needs to be in compliance with legislation; 2) it must meet the specific physiological needs of end-users; 3) it needs to fit within the constraints of existing square footage. A design solution that meets all of three of these design elements will be a boon for both companies and their breast pumping employees.