I have been managing workplace lactation programs for companies and federal agencies since 1995. I have worked with all of these organizations concerning the issue of creating lactation rooms that are safe, private and clean. The issue of where to locate a lactation room is one that is hotly debated by experts in the field. Given my many years of managing lactation programs for organizations big and small, I feel qualified to weigh in on this issue
The ladies room suite
It is my opinion that a “ladies room suite” is the ideal place for a lactation room and that every floor in a building should have one. When I say a “ladies room suite” I am talking about the lactation room being an integral part of the ladies room or locker room, but separate from the toilet areas. I believe this is the best way to provide easy access to lactation rooms and maintain them in a clean manner. I say this after many years of struggling to get stand alone lactation rooms cleaned and properly cared for in a large multiple building organization. A lactation room in a ladies room suite is very handy for the women who are pumping. They can wash their hands in the sink and then use the sink for washing out their equipment when they are finished.
Having the lactation room in this location, and providing enough lactation rooms, would allow women to go and use the room whenever they need to without having to get a key from someone or be on a rigid schedule. When the lactation room is part of the ladies room area, it is usually in a safe and convenient location where there is already running water. A properly maintained ladies room sink area is probably not any more contaminated than our sinks at home. What we need when developing a lactation room is ease of access for those needing to use the room and routine cleaning and maintenance for these rooms.
The stand-alone lactation room
When a lactation room is stand alone, a lock (usually a cipher lock) is required to keep those who don’t belong in the room out, and to allow access to those who are authorized to use the room. Especially in a large organization with multiple rooms and multiple locations, it becomes a problem to maintain and stock the stand alone lactation room. Access must be controlled by someone and this requires a lot of administration and scheduling. When the lactation room is part of the “ladies room suite” it is routinely cleaned with the rest of the room and stocked very easily by housekeeping.
I realize that many are concerned about the cleanliness of a lactation room that is part of a “ladies room suite”, however in my experience, the restrooms are cleaned at least daily in a large organization and I cannot say that we are able to get a stand-alone lactation room reliably cleaned every day in the places where I have managed programs. The room/cubicle used for pumping is, of course, lockable when in use. Women feel less vulnerable in a “ladies room suite” because it is in a well traveled area and one that is generally recognized as off limits to men.