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Accommodations for Nursing Mothers

This post is a little late because I am in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Federal Bar Association's 42nd Annual Indian Law Conference. A few things to note about Indian Law conferences:

  • Women bring their children to conferences
  • Nursing accommodations are offered for conference attendees
  • Children are exposed to, and involved in, Indian law and policy

​All of these things are incredibly important, but the one that stands out to me, and that I want to talk about right now is the nursing accommodations offered for mothers.

​Nursing Accommodations

The Federal Bar Association sent out detailed emails each day of the conference, and one line that stood out to me was the following:

A networking lounge and private nursing suite is available. Please see FBA Staff at the registration table for location details.

​This may seem silly to some, but I was delighted to see this announcement in the email that went out to all attendees. Steps like these help normalize breastfeeding, and help bring that balance for women that are pursuing a career and raising children. As a law student, and a mom, this is important to me.

Seattle University School of Law provides a lactation room for mothers in the library. Most students wouldn't even know that it exists because the location is a secluded and private. The room is equipped with a sink, chair, table, and plenty of outlets. This room helped me continue to go to law school while maintaining my goal of breastfeeding my son until at least age one (he ended up going longer than that, but I hit that goal and I felt pretty amazing about it). Seattle U also has a student organization, Parents Attending Law School (PALS) that provides an avenue for parents to come together and discuss their unique law school experience.

The University of Washington School of Law has gone above and beyond to provide support for their parents attending law school (I am so jealous!). The UW has a Resource Room which is equipped with the following:

  • Sink
  • Microwave
  • Fridge
  • Changing Table
  • Open Area for Children to Play
  • Toys, Clothes, Diapers, Wipes
  • Three private nursing rooms
  • Computer Stations for Virtual Class Participation

As you can imagine, this alone is a sanctuary for a new mother, but the support doesn't stop there at UW. A third year law student shared with me that as a single-parent with older children, she found UW PALS to be incredibly helpful to her as a network of people for things like management of law school with children. Another student explained that the law students with younger children would take turns watching children in the resource room so they could all attend their classes in person.

These schools, and others that are providing accommodations for nursing mothers, and parents generally are setting the tone for the legal field. And, the case for employers to make these accommodations is a strong one. Consider this list of reasons for supporting breastfeeding employees from the Department of Health & Human Services:

  • Breastfeeding employees miss work less often
  • Breastfeeding lowers health care costs
  • Investing in a worksite lactation support program can yield substantial dividents to the company (lower turnover rates, health care savings, higher productivity and loyalty)

Ultimately, the initial investment does not need to be as involved as the University of Washington, although we can all strive for that level of support. Women need a private place to express milk, a sink (not in the bathroom! Breastmilk is food!), a refrigerator, and flexible breaks. Additional perks can be educational support during and after pregnancy, as well as support through policies that help women achieve their breastfeeding goals. Law offices and other schools: take note and continue to provide accommodations that exceed the minimum requirements. Your employees/students will be much happier, and so grateful.

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