MPH, Public Health Practice
Dr. Patricia McGovern
Describe current perspectives of lactation support among University of Minnesota breastfeeding students and employees and provide recommendations for policy
Background: Breastfeeding shields infants from infectious diseases and mothers from chronic disease while promoting mother-infant bonding. Pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and until age 1 with foods. Breastfeeding after return to campus is challenging despite the Affordable Care Act requiring employers provide unpaid time and a non-restroom space. The University of Minnesota (UMN) Lactation Advocacy Committee reports women experience inconsistent breastfeeding support and the UMN lacks a formal lactation policy. This study sought to understand lactation experiences at the UMN.
Methods: This qualitative online study was conducted via the UMN all campuses portal page in December 2019. Survey questions addressed lactation experiences during 2018-2019. Participants’ responses were thematically coded.
Results: 34 responses were collected from 21 staff, 10 faculty, and 3 students. Identified themes included Mental Wellbeing, Access, Work Environment, and Lactation Space. The Lactation Space was described by 27 (79%) responders with 70% reporting the space as poorly equipped. 41% reported mental stressors associated with lactation. 18% reported pumping in a bathroom. 6% reported breastfeeding cessation due to poor access to lactation spaces. Positive responders acknowledged access to private offices (21%) or cordless pumps (6%).
Discussion: Responders, although limited to a small, self-selected sample, suggest the UMN is not breastfeeding friendly. A campus-wide policy is needed to address and provide resources for lactation and set expectations of supervisors. Federal and state laws require unpaid time and a private space for lactating mothers. The MN Department of Health and the UMN Lactation Advocacy Committee identify additional policy elements.
James L. Craig Fellowship in Public Health