Lactation Policy and Lactation Facilities on Campus

Research Study: An Exploration of Lactation Policy and Lactation Facilities Across US Higher Education Campuses

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How is higher education providing access to appropriate lactation space so new mothers can participate fully in work and study?

The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing collaborated in a nationwide study in 2019 to explore lactation policy and facilities in US colleges and universities.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 2010 to require employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place for nursing mothers to express milk while at work. However, the levels, quality, and availability of lactation spaces and supports across campuses for breastfeeding faculty, staff, students, and guests have not been widely documented.

This research is intended to:

  • document the levels, quality, and availability of lactation spaces and supports across campus for breastfeeding faculty, staff, students, and guests.
  • help campuses identify best practices for planning policy, design, and amenities for lactation spaces.
  • advance accessibility and environments of wellness in higher education.

How well is your campus supporting the lactation needs of breastfeeding mothers on their campuses so they can participate fully in work and study? While most surveyed campuses have taken steps, there is wide variation among colleges and universities in the ways they accommodate the needs of breastfeeding mothers on campus.

Read the Results

Download the full study brief and infographics:


Study Take Aways

  • Most institutions reported two to six different campus entities involved in the planning of their lactation spaces.
  • Most survey respondents were in expansion mode with their programs (adding rooms, policies, or building support).
  • Schools want to comply with the law, but focus on compliance may limit sensitivity to user needs.
  • Most colleges and universities are doing something to accommodate breastfeeding mothers; some schools have model programs.

Questions to Consider About Your Lactation Policy and Space Planning

If you are starting or expanding your program:

  1. What value does institutional administration place on lactation accommodation? Can you identify potential benefits or Return on Investment (ROI)?
  2. What is the expectation of potential users, e.g., what level of accommodation will seem scant vs state-of-the-art?
    • What lessons can we learn from other schools? What are other community entities doing (e.g., local businesses, health departments)?
    • Would they be willing to speak with you about their development process? How are they advertising or showcasing their programs?
  3. What resources do you have in-house for planning lactation accommodations (e.g., breastfeeding expertise, planning/design best practices, women’s health, public health, student health)?
    • What community resources might be available (e.g., maternal health orgs, health departments, wellness consultants)?
  4. How can you involve target users or have a user-centered design process?
    • What demographics of users should you include in feedback – students, faculty, staff, visitors; women who have pumped at your and/or other institutions?
    • Are you considering adjacencies, travel distances, weather protection, design amenities, fixtures, and equipment?

If your program is established:

  1. What (intentional or inadvertent) messages are you sending about how the institution views the importance of breastfeeding and lactation accommodation? Do mothers feel they are provided with everything they need inside the lactation room?
    • How and when do you communicate information about your program to students, staff, faculty, and visitors?
    • Who on your campus is accessing and who is not accessing accommodations?
  2. How can you use data to improve the quality or reach of your program?
    • How identifiable and accessible are your lactation spaces for breastfeeding students, faculty, and guests?
  3. Are you receiving any outside recognition for your lactation program? What recognition is available locally?
    • If you are considered a leader in the space or if you encountered and overcame challenges, how can you disseminate your experience to help others?

Overhead view of a rendering of a lactation space with a woman sitting on a swivel chair in the center of the small room, and a long table on one side.


Other Models of College and University Lactation Programs

Tools and Guidelines for Lactation Planning

Academic Research Discussing College and University Lactation Planning

Other Design Resources

Research Authors

Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN
Joyce Lee, FAIA, LEED Fellow
Dare Henry-Moss, MPH
Society for College and University Planning

SCUP Volunteer Task Team

Margaret M. Carney, University Architect, Cornell University
JoEllen Baldwin, Consultant, Comprehensive Facilities Planning, Inc.
William A. Massey, Principal, Sasaki Associates, Inc.
Donna Zalecky, Principal, DMZ Planners LLC

Share Your Model

If you’d like to share your model program for lactation space or policy, please complete this form. Thank you.

For More Information

Contact: Kathy Benton, Associate Director of Strategic Alliances, SCUP (734.669.3271)