A recent Facebook post from a student mother has initiated a discussion about the need for more mother’s rooms across BYU-Hawaii campus.
Reka Bordas, a senior from Hungary majoring in peacebuilding, is seven months pregnant, a mother to a 2-year-old, and works a part-time job. Bordas published a post in the “I LOVE BYU HAWAII & PCC” Facebook group to explain the challenges of not having a mother’s room located between the library and the Lorenzo Snow Building.
Some commentators on the Facebook post asked how many rooms were there on campus, with one saying there are nine. “The only two buildings that have a nursing room are the HGB and the Stake Center, buildings that are closer to TVA,” said Bordas in a private interview. Moana Numanga, an HR generalist at Human Resource Services, confirmed that these two location are the only official locations on campus.
The Sewing Center has a temporary lactation room located in its fitting room, but Bordas said it is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “For us college students, the day doesn't end at 5 p.m. Many students start their shift around that time.”
Bordas explained how the Sewing Center’s fitting room does not satisfy the purpose of a mother’s needs in nursing her baby. “It lacks the sense of privacy and doesn’t block noise, which is definitely needed for pumping.” Other mothers who were interviewed said there is no space for using a pump, nor is the room very comfortable.
Numanga said Hawaii law requires an employer must provide a place and reasonable times for services. It must be a room other than a bathroom and be shielded from the view of the public, with a door that can lock. She said the Sewing Center’s room doesn’t meet the requirements and “is not the best place.”
“It’s not law to make it convenient, but it would be nice to have several spaces on campus so you don’t have to go too far,” she added.
Referring to a room in the Aloha Center that was made into a mother’s room during the summer break, Bordas said, “We wouldn't want anything fancier than that. Many moms would use it between their breaks. TVA is not far but still not as close, so you can't run home and [nurse].
Julianna Celua, a senior from Canada majoring in social work, explained how even though there are rooms for mothers to nurse at the Stake Center and HGB, both areas are not convenient for her because she doesn’t have classes in those areas.
Bordas explained how previously she had addressed the need of a mother’s room. She said she wrote an email to the Student Advisor Counselor Center, but weeks went by and she didn’t receive a response.
It was then when she, Celua, and another mom decided to get together and talk to Melba Latu, the dean of students. Celua said, “I think that especially in a culture that encourages people to marry and have children, I don’t think there should be any question whether we should have accessibility to privacy if we wanted, for nursing, pumping, and changing our babies.”
Some of the comments in the Facebook post mentioned that mothers were asked by some people to nurse in the bathrooms. Katherine Elizabeth Edgar, a certified nurse and lactation counselor who visits the homes of new BYUH mothers, said, “Often times when women don't have a place to breastfeed, everyone says go in the bathroom.” She explained that for babies, nursing means getting their full meal. “Who wants to eat a meal sitting on a toilet?”
As a nurse, Edgar said she has seen a lot of health benefits for breastfeeding. “I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. When women are returning to work the unfortunate thing is that many women that don't get support from their employer, don't have a place to go to pump and a woman has to pump her breast … as often as [she] will be feeding a baby. In order for the hormones to continue milk production, the breast has to have some type of stimulation, whether it’s the baby nursing or whether it is the mother pumping.”
Edgar said mothers typically resort back to formulas because of the lack of personal space or time.
Mothers need support from their community and employers, said Edgar, and they should receive that support at this university from the academic staff. She suggested the most simple thing to do is provide a space. “It’s a big problem, but it’s something that can get fixed very easily.
Those who breastfeed can save about $200-$300 a month by not purchasing formula, Edgar added. “That doesn't include the bottles and the nipples and the other things that go with it. That's a lot of money for a student, and so these moms are trying to do what's best for their babies and I think they deserve our support. I know of moms that end up going to formula, which is a shame.”
Student moms are often told to use a conference or office room, said Edgar. “What if those rooms aren't available or they are not open for her to use and then she has to go a shift without being able to pump because there’s no space for her to go? It’s physically hurtful for moms, not being able to empty their breast when they get full. Bacteria can build up in the breast. It could affect the mother and it can get severe.”
Celua said one challenge is some people are comfortable breastfeeding in public while others aren’t. She said a lot of babies tend to throw off the covers because they may not like it, making it “not possible to modestly breastfeed.”
“I totally understand the struggle,” Celua said. “Luckily I can nurse my daughter when we are sitting out and in more public areas, but the problem with that is that I am comfortable with it. I don’t know how other people feel about it. … I don’t know what is it like for other cultures [or] for people who see someone breastfeeding. I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t want to get in trouble from the school, and I just think it should be an option if I didn’t feel comfortable like that to have a nursing room.”
She said the ideal mother’s room should be “a space that is private, that doesn't have the germs that a bathroom has, with a comfortable chair and preferably a little table that she can put her pump on and an outlet that she can plug it into, … [and] a door that the mom can lock from the inside so she doesn’t have to worry about people walking in.”
Numanga said she is working with the Scheduling Office to find more spaces for a mother’s room.
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because further research was done to validate information given to the Ke Alaka'i. We apologize for the inconvenience.