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Many businesses that employ a large number of female employees ages 18–45 have found that permanent space dedicated as a milk expression room is the most cost-effective and efficient option. Permanent space can be as small as 4×5 feet, though the size of a handicapped restroom stall, 7×7 feet, may be more comfortable. A lock on the door will help create privacy. An electrical outlet will help mothers operate their breast pump.
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. Look for space near running water for washing hands and breast pump parts.
Women will feel comfortable and safe when the door into the milk expression room can be locked. A keypad lock or electronic key provides privacy, and nursing moms can use a key, key card, or code to enter the room. If a lockable door is not possible, provide a sign outside the door with a well-communicated policy to help prevent others from entering the space. Curtains or partitions by the door might be needed to provide an additional layer of privacy when the door is opened from the outside.
Include a comfortable chair and a flat surface such as a small table or shelf for the mother's breast pump. An electrical outlet is preferred. Enhanced options include a sink for washing hands and pump parts, a small refrigerator for storing milk, soft lighting to help with relaxation, an ottoman or footstool, framed photos or posters, and a place for mothers to post photos of their infants.
Some companies provide a multi-user electric breast pump that can be shared by nursing moms. This can help minimize the amount of time women need to express their milk. Other employees bring their own personal breast pumps from home. If providing a multi-user breast pump for employees, each user will need her own separate attachment kit with tubing. Employees can purchase the attachment kits themselves, or the company might provide it or subsidize the cost.
Some businesses make the space available to other nursing mothers in addition to employees. For example, a restaurant or retail store might make the space available for customers. A university might make the space available for students. If the business opens the space to others, employee needs must be the priority. Also, the items in the space may need to be secured.
Companies with many nursing mothers may wish to keep a log for them to reserve time to use 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.