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MSU Addresses Needs Of Nursing Moms

Alison Virag McCann sets up her breast pump
Scott Pohl
Alison Virag McCann sets up her breast pump in a room for nursing mothers in the MSU Administration Building.

NOTE: WKAR first aired this story in January. We bring it to you again as Mother's Day approaches this weekend.

When a nursing mother returns to work, finding the time and a private place to use a breast pump can be challenging. We examine what that means for working moms on the Michigan State University campus.

It’s 7:30 in the morning, and Alison Virag McCann is already at her IT job in the MSU Administration Building. It’s also her time to enter a room set aside in the building for nursing mothers who need to use a breast pump.

Virag McCann has two boys, one who’s almost three and a seven month old baby. She has nursed both of her children, and access to this space means a great deal to her.

Lori Strom is Lifespan and Family Services Coordinator in MSU’s WorkLife office. She says the first of these rooms opened on campus in the late 90s. She adds that since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, law requires workplaces with more than 50 employees to provide a room for that purpose.

MSU has had as many as 80 of these rooms around campus. The number currently stands at about 60 as rooms are reassigned in buildings where no nursing mothers work.

Strom points out that some moms have private offices with doors they can lock; they don’t need rooms like these.

MSU now has a construction policy for new buildings and renovations. Each must include a “personal health” room. These rooms are to be made available for more than just nursing moms, but those with other needs like migraine headaches, insulin injectio, even Muslim prayer time.

Strom hopes these rooms can be accessed not only by employees, but also by students and visitors to campus who need them. MSU has produced a Google map to help mothers find these rooms.

Back in the administration building, nursing mom Alison Virag McCann wraps up her breast pumping for the morning by noting that she shares this room with eight to ten other mothers. Scheduling, she says, is a challenge; this room is booked solid every day from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

When she's finished using her breast pump, Alison Virag McCann takes her milk to a nearby refrigerator and returns to her cubicle. It’s a routine made easier, and more comfortable, by having access to this room.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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