Science - January 31, 2008

Expressing milk in the Forum basement

Women who want to express breast milk while at work can do so in a cold, dusty storage space in the cellar, and for rinsing the pump they can make use of a cleaning cupboard or a toilet. There’s room for improvement when it comes to the facilities for expressing breast milk in Forum. The building is cramped and students received priority when the interior was furnished. Resource did a quick WUR-wide survey.

The quiet room in Lumen.
In the Netherlands employers are obliged to provide lactation facilities in the workplace, where pregnant employees can rest and mothers can breastfeed or express milk: a clean, warm space that offers privacy, equipped with hot water, a comfortable chair, table and an electric socket. You can also go and feed your baby, but that is often difficult to combine with work.

About 250 people work in Forum, but most workspace is shared and there are windows everywhere, and therefore a lack of privacy. Given the lack of an alternative, Sigrid Leemeijer, who works at the student administration, uses the basement storage room which has been designated lactation space. She is not impressed: ‘I’m so used to expressing that I can manage anywhere, but for some women this might be a reason to stop breastfeeding.’

Femke van der Werf, who works at the Agrojobs desk at Van Hall Larenstein in Wageningen, has used the space but found it cold and unpleasant. ‘Usually I reserved a meeting room here on the same corridor, but it was never quiet and I had to go the toilet to rinse everything. Things should be better organised in a brand new building like this.’

Ludi Zeeuwen, who is the caretaker of Forum, admits that the room in the basement is not ideal. She suspects that the planners forgot about lactation facilities when designing Forum. ‘It’s not that we don’t want to provide arrangements, but there’s too little space, and the same goes for offices and other space as well. Apparently not all women manage to make arrangements in their own department.’

In the new Plant Sciences Group building, Radix, and at RIKILT, women who want to breastfeed have not been forgotten. RIKILT has a room available in its present building and in the new building there will be a ‘privacy room’. In Radix the room will also be multifunctional: a quiet room equipped for first aid (EHBO) and expressing. At Van Hall Larenstein in Velp and Leeuwarden, women can make use of the first-aid rooms. ‘Sometimes people also go there to rest,’ says domestic services coordinator Otto Huitema of VHL Leeuwarden.

The room for expressing milk in the Leeuwenborch is located in the basement but fulfils the requirements. The AFSG Atrium building in the Born has a good, small, quiet room on the ground floor, as does the Biotechnion. The latter is also used as a prayer room. In the Transitorium and Chemistry building a space can be arranged, and the same happens at the Animal Sciences Group in Lelystad. Caretaker Herman Snoek: ‘We have created space in an unused invalid toilet, but some find it too far away from their work space.’ His colleague at Zodiac in Wageningen recently arranged for two invalid toilets to be converted. ‘We also have a lack of space.’

Best off are employees at the Environmental Sciences Group on the Wageningen Campus. You have to know the way through Lumen, but once you find the room on the ground floor, you can express milk or take a rest on a comfortable chair in a quiet airy room with light-green walls. Going by the list by the door, it is well used.

Re:act