Lactation Room to Support Breastfeeding at Work

breast pump on a desk at office

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images 

Under the U.S. lactation room law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide a private space for nursing mothers to express breast milk for their babies. Smaller companies (those with fewer than 50 employees) may obtain an exemption from creating a corporate lactation program by demonstrating it would create an undue hardship.

Regardless of the size of your company, it's to your advantage to help new working moms transition back to work after maternity leave. A meaningful way to do this is to create a comfortable, safe place for them to pump breast milk by building a lactation room (or nursing room).

When new working moms return to work, they may have been breastfeeding for the past six to 12 weeks. Many have a goal to breastfeed for the first six to 12 months of their baby's life. Without the support of their employer, this goal can be challenging to meet.

Tips for Designing a Lactation Room

The need for a lactation room came about from new working moms who needed a private, safe, and clean place to express breast milk. The lactation room cannot be a bathroom because toilet areas aren't a sanitary location to pump breast milk that a baby will consume. 

When you are designing a lactation room the most important thing is that it must be private and must protect the breastfeeding mom from being seen by co-workers or the general public while pumping breast milk.

Here are some suggestions for when you begin to fill the room with equipment and furniture:

  • A comfortable chair
  • A flat surface for a breast pump to rest, like a long countertop
  • Easy access to electrical outlets
  • A lock on the door and/or a sign that says "occupied" or otherwise warns passers-by that the room is in use
  • A sink to rinse out pump parts with soap and paper towels
  • Tissues and anti-bacterial wipes to clean up the flat surface
  • A small refrigerator for storing breast milk.
  • A microwave for steam-cleaning pump pieces (the mom will have a bag she places the pump parts into to steam clean)
  • A multi-user breast pump so women don't have to lug around their personal pumps
  • Decorations that encourage mothers to relax and pump more breast milk, whether that's personal photos or artwork

Create a Task Force

Enlist current and former breastfeeding moms on to a task force that will come up with lactation room guidelines. You might also include lactation consultants, your facilities manager(s) and staff from both human resources and communications.

Typically, nursing moms carry a bag large enough to contain their breast pump, spare pump pieces, and an electrical cord or spare batteries. They also will likely use an insulated bag with a freezer pack to keep breast milk cold and fresh if a refrigerator isn't available. These are the things they already have so when creating a lactation room, or nursing room, ask them what they'd like to have that would best support their equipment and their emotional needs.

Create guidelines that address employee needs and promote the availability of nursing rooms. As more new moms return to work after giving birth, they will feel supported in their choice to continue breastfeeding after maternity leave. This can make the transition period easier to manage.

Needs and Benefits of the Lactation Room Law

In addition to creating a private space for breastfeeding moms to pump milk, employers must also provide reasonable break time.

Until the baby has its first birthday, nursing moms may take time to get to the lactation room as well as the time needed for the pumping sessions themselves. Typically that's a 20 minute period every three or four hours during the workday, but it will vary depending on the needs of the mother and child.

While some employers view the lactation room as a work-life benefit that can increase loyalty and productivity, corporate lactation programs also help new mothers avoid taking time off work due to a sick child.

The United States Breastfeeding Committee cites a 77% reduction in absenteeism among firms with lactation support and twice as many one-day absences among employees whose babies aren't breastfed.

In the days before the lactation room law, nursing moms got creative in pumping breast milk. Some would simply pump in their offices with the door closed—a practice that continues today. Others claimed an empty break room or even pumped breast milk sitting in their cubicle, with a large blanket or shawl thrown over their torsos for privacy. We have certainly come a long way from that time.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. United States Breastfeeding Committee. Workplace Accommodations to Support and Protect Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: United States Breastfeeding Committee; 2010.