Reducing barriers to breast-feeding and providing a welcoming and accessible space for students and staff to pump milk or feed their babies is the focus of a new initiative at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“We want new mothers to feel more comfortable meeting their lactation needs on the Medical Center campus,” said Melissa Hopkins, assistant vice chancellor and assistant dean of facilities management at the School of Medicine, who is leading the effort. “We hope this initiative will enable them to transition back to work and school and continue breast-feeding their children.”
Hopkins has been working on the effort with representatives from the Office of Faculty Affairs at the medical school and Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals as part of a 25-member team.
The committee is evaluating lactation rooms across the medical campus and will upgrade existing spaces if necessary. Some upgrades will include breast pumps, adequate lighting, lockable doors and comfortable furniture. All future buildings will have lactation rooms that include these elements. The committee also is creating a campus map of lactation rooms, developing website links and writing an educational pamphlet that will be distributed to new staff and students.
The initiative is working in conjunction with a national program called Best Fed Beginnings that is being implemented at Barnes-Jewish. The hospital is one of 89 U.S. hospitals chosen to participate in the federally funded program, which introduces significant changes in how mothers and newborn babies receive care. Some of these include placing a baby on the mother’s chest immediately after birth and keeping a baby in a mother’s room and out of the hospital nursery.
“As we make these changes at Barnes-Jewish, some of our patients are having completely different birth experiences than they may have had in the past, and more are choosing to breast-feed,” said Camaryn Chrisman Robbins, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine and steering committee member of the Best Fed Beginnings initiative at Barnes-Jewish. “Breast-feeding has numerous benefits to the baby, the mom and even to our community for years to come, as those children grow into healthier adults because they were breast-fed.”