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University finds partners for low-Cost lactation rooms

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At the University of California, Davis, new moms express milk in the privacy of janitor closets, utility rooms and restroom lounges.

At least that’s what these rooms once were. Today, 34 8-by-8 nooks around campus are equipped with hospital-grade breast pumps, comfortable chairs, literature about parenting and pumping—and lots of baby pictures.

“Start small,” advises Barbara Ashby, who manages the university’s program. UC Davis’ effort began with three rooms in 1995. “You’re not asking for a ballroom. You’re asking for a very small office or large closet with ventilation. If you wait until you can roll out this incredible program, it won’t come.”

More than 100 moms a year, including employees and students, use the rooms, which evolved as the university’s response to a state law that requires employers to allow lactating mothers time and a private space other than a restroom stall to express milk during the workday.

In the beginning, Ashby says, program administrators “scrounged for resources.” Eventually, though, her department partnered with the nutrition department for an endorsement, the university’s hospital for used breast pumps, the campus health center for use of a room for twice-monthly orientations, the chancellor’s office for a grant to pay for paint and paneling, and student housing for discarded furniture.

Contact: Barbara Ashby at  

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