Group of nursing students wants private locations to breastfeed on campus

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

When former Western nursing student Stacy Laureano had a baby this year, she had to decide between taking a year off school; weaning her baby early; and breastfeeding her baby or expressing milk in her car or a bathroom stall.

Until recently, Western offered no private space for student mothers to breastfeed or pump milk on campus.

Upon recognizing a real need for the space, a group of fourth-year nursing students addressed the issue for its political action project last term, and it’s seeing results from its work in small steps.

“A woman who chooses to continue breastfeeding upon returning [to class] must either breastfeed or express her milk every two to four hours to maintain her milk,” the students wrote.

“I have heard of women trying to arrange when they will get pregnant around their academic schedule so they can also factor in breastfeeding and when they will have to wean the baby off and onto formula so it doesn’t interfere with their schedule,” group member Eileen Armstrong said.

“This is something that affects full and part-time students, not to mention staff members.”

The group, which also included Christine Clifford, Krystal Barton, Kelly Tunstall and Ashley Statchuk, took its concerns to Western’s Equity Services.

At the end of last term, Equity Services arranged for space in Student Health Services and the Women’s Issues Network office on the second floor of the University Community Centre.

Tom MacFarlane, director of SHS, said while SHS has no formal policy on breastfeeding space, most of the time it can make accommodations for individual students’ needs.

“We made accommodations for one student in the past, and most of the time we should be able to do that again,” MacFarlane said.

WIN co-ordinator Natalie Grella said she and other WIN members are happy to offer space in their office. She said one woman considered using the office but declined because it wasn’t private enough.

“Some people have no problem nursing out in public,” Armstrong said. “It’s totally natural and should be acceptable, but babies are easily distracted and nurse better in a quieter area. Even in the washroom, the toilets are constantly flushing, which can make the baby jump.”

After speaking with the nursing students, WIN was concerned about the lack of space and hopes to help secure more private space in the future.

“It’s our responsibility to bring issues that are too often ignored by the University Students’ Council and other groups on campus in order to facilitate the post-secondary education of the majority population [of] Western: women,” said Jessica Balmer, WIN publications manager.

Western is opening a new recreation centre in September 2008. University Students’ Council President Fab Dolan said adding a private breastfeeding room should be considered.

“The construction of a new campus building is the perfect opportunity to accommodate this and other populations,” Balmer added.

“There are no excuses. The plans can be adjusted to include an area " or better, several areas " to accommodate breastfeeding mothers and their children.”

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