Best Practices for Lactations Spaces for Event Organizers

Jacqueline Kazil
Nov 10, 2017 · 8 min read
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As an event organizer, I have been asked for a lactation space a handful of times, but I never understood what exactly made for a good space. In one case, I offered requesting attendees access to a lovely mother’s room with all of the amenities, but it would require an escort, because it was behind the host’s secure area. The room was great, but the access was not. After the fact, when I asked one attendee about her experience, she said that she ended up pumping in her car, because it was more convenient.

When I myself became a mother and I needed a lactation space during an event, I was offered the same situation — access to a space, but that space needed an escort. The event was located on the first floor right near the entrance of the building. The building itself took up an entire city block. To get to the escort from the conference, I had to walk halfway down the building to the elevator, down to the basement, then halfway back in the opposite direction, putting me almost directly below the conference. Then, the escort and I would walk back to the elevator to the fifth floor, then halfway across the building again to the mother’s room. The escort would unlock the room, then they would walk away. When I was done, I was to lock up and let myself out. By the time I arrived back at the conference space, I had walked about three city blocks or about a half a mile.

It takes approximately 30 minutes to pump. Then there is setup and clean up — +10 minutes. In the case, I described above, it also took another 10 minutes to get to and from the lactation space. All-in-all each pump session that day took me about 60 minutes, and it’s best to pump every three hours. If an event is all day — about nine hours, that is about three hours of time lost to pumping. Because conference sessions don’t nicely line up with the time it takes to pump, for every one pump session, I lost the ability to attend two full conference sessions.

The second time I was to attend an event where I was told the lactation space required an escort. I decided not to attend solely based off of this fact. It is frustrating, adds to the exhaustion of pumping and of attending an event, and it feels a little like asking for permission to use the bathroom.

Good lactation spaces in work places are such because someone put thought into them and due to their permanence, much thought should be put into them. Events are very limited time periods and often the person responsible for setting up a space has no experience being a pumping mother nor with the difficulties that pumping mothers often face. It is easy to have a bad space.

After pumping in a variety of spaces outside of my home, I have come up with the following list to help event organizers figure how to best accommodate mothers at their events. By not providing a comfortable arrangement, mothers may forgo attending the event, like I did, or skip pumping sessions. Skipping pumping sessions can lead to having milk production dip, which means less food for baby, or swollen breasts, which could be painful. This could also lead to leakage, which could be embarrassing and cause an attendee to retreat to their hotel room or home.

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Privacy and accessibility

None of the items in this section are required, but this could make or break the inclusion of lactating mothers at an event.

  1. Provide a place that convenient to the conference talks / activities and isn't a 20 minute walk that requires multiple turns and is separated from the event area completely. A comfortable space that is close is better than an official space that is far away and inconvenient.

Furniture and supplies

  1. Power outlets (required). Each pumping mom needs at least one outlet to pump. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have a second to charge a laptop or phone while she is waiting.

In conclusion, don’t just find a room and call it a lactation space, but be thoughtful about it. A space that is thoughtfully put together will help moms produce more milk, which will make them happy.

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At tech conferences large companies are able to build out complete lounge areas, why not get one to sponsor the lactation space?

Discussion

Did I miss anything? What has been the best experience you have had pumping at a conference? What has been the worst experience you have had?

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