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Many businesses employ a large number of female employees of childbearing age (ages 18–45) and may have multiple buildings. Some find that multi-user milk expression rooms are efficient by allowing more than one woman to express milk at the same time. Multi-user spaces can be designed to accommodate two or more nursing mothers, depending on the need. Privacy for individual users should be included as part of the plans.
The number of spaces needed depends on many factors. For example, companies will want to consider how many women are employed, the number and size of buildings, and the work schedule and job settings of employees. A general rule is to provide at least one permanent milk expression space for every 50–100 women employed by the company, and adjust as employee needs increase. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) compiled a formula for identifying the number of spaces needed, and estimate that at least six milk expression stations for every 1000 female employees should be the general rule. This number is based on a pregnancy rate of 5–7 percent among the female population, a breastfeeding initiation rate of 75 percent, and an assumption that most nursing women cluster milk expression periods around a similar period from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during a standard work day. The chart below is based on their general guide:
|Number of Female Employees||Number of Stations Needed|
|For every additional 1000 employees||6 additional stations|
Seek locations that employees can reach within a 5-minute walk. This means that spaces should be evenly distributed within large buildings, as well as evenly distributed across a large campus in easily accessed locations. Limiting an employee's travel time minimizes the overall amount of break period women need to express milk. Centralized locations also make it possible for the greatest number of employees to access the space. Within a building, spaces can be located near a central bank of elevators, the entrance to a facility, or the employee lounge or eating areas.
Women will feel comfortable and safe when the door into the milk expression room can be locked. A keypad lock or electronic key on the outside door provides privacy for multi-use rooms. Nursing moms receive key cards or codes to enter the room. Curtains or partitions by the door provide an additional layer of privacy when the door is opened from the outside.
Privacy should also be provided to individual users within a multi-user room. The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires milk expression spaces to be private and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. Curtains, screens, partitions, and cubicle dividers can create individual spaces within a larger multi-user room. Another option is to construct walls to create individual milk expression rooms within the lactation suite.
At a minimum, individual milk expression stations should include a chair and a flat surface such as a small table or shelf for the breast pump or supplies. An electrical outlet is preferred for each user station. Many companies provide additional amenities that are shared by all users. This can include a sink, a small refrigerator for storing milk, and a microwave for heating meals.
Some companies include a multi-user electric breast pump that can be shared by employees. This can help minimize the amount of time women need to express milk. If providing a multi-user pump, each milk expression station needs its own pump, and each mother will need her own separate attachment kit and tubing. Employees can purchase the attachment kit themselves, or the company might decide to provide it or subsidize the cost. Companies may also decide to ask women to use their own breast pumps.
Companies with many nursing mothers find it helpful to keep a log for users to reserve time for the space. This can also help the business determine when additional space may be needed. Scheduling options include a paper sign-in sheet kept in the room, a dry-erase board, or an online calendar schedule women share.
Content last updated June 19, 2014.
Resources last updated April 15, 2014.