Wellness rooms for nursing moms improved across IU, thanks to grant

Nursing mothers on Indiana University campuses across the state will soon be noticing changes for the better in wellness rooms.

Thanks to a Workplace Wellness Grant from the Indiana State Department of Health, IU Work + Life has secured funding to furnish IU's 60 wellness rooms with lactation supplies and resources. The goal is to make informational materials more readily available to nursing mothers, as well as create an environment that is clean, calming and conducive to nursing mothers' needs.

Angela Reese in a wellness roomView print quality image
IU work-life consultant Angela Reese adds lactation supplies and other resources to one of IU's 60 wellness rooms, thanks to a state grant. Photo by Julie Newsom, Health IU

IU Work + Life was awarded $8,000, the full amount available for the grant, and hopes to complete the project by the end of the year. Items for each room include:

  • Cork boards: Cork boards will provide a place to post wellness information for room occupants, newborn pictures for nursing mothers or notes of gratitude.
  • Supplies: Hand sanitizers, pump sanitizers, surface wipes, baby wipes and more will be placed in each room to help maintain cleanliness.
  • Ambiance: Greenery, white-noise machines and soft lighting will be placed in each room to help create the peaceful, low-stress environment needed by nursing mothers.

Additionally, IU South Bend's Teresa Dobrzykowski will be piloting a program with the IU South Bend School of Nursing to create digital education opportunities in each wellness room. Topics covered will include lactation education, resiliency, stress management and mindfulness. Environmental supports such as a sun lamp and aromatherapy diffuser will also be available in the IU South Bend wellness room pilot program.

Having a designated time and space for nursing mothers to express breast milk is required by federal law. IU work-life consultant Angela Reese said IU hopes to use the rooms as an opportunity to go above and beyond the minimum requirements and provide exceptional support for nursing mothers on campus.

"We want nursing mothers to have the best chance of success reaching their breastfeeding goals, because there are benefits for mom, baby and the employer," she said. "With these improvements to wellness rooms, we can make a positive impact on the lives of not only our nursing mothers at work but also their families at home."

IU policies and benefits for working parents

IU Paid Parental and Paid Family Leave policies: The university offers six weeks of paid parental leave for eligible staff positions. Twelve weeks of paid family leave is available for academic appointees.

Family and Medical Leave Act at IU: FMLA is a federal law that gives eligible employees unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage.

Federal "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" provision: Requires employers to provide a nursing mother reasonable break time and a place to express breast milk after the birth of her child.

Nationwide statistics show that returning to the workforce can be a difficult time for nursing mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year after birth. But on average, only 10 percent of mothers employed full time who initiated breastfeeding were still breastfeeding at six months, according to the CDC. This can be due to many factors, one being lack of workplace support. IU Work + Life is aiming to improve that, Reese said.

Over the past year, IU Work + Life has provided educational resources for nursing mothers, including Reese sharing tips about returning to work after parental leave, and recorded three webinars about breastfeeding in the workplace.

"We are very fortunate as the recipient of this grant," said Deanna Cooper, wellness specialist at IU East's Center for Health Promotion. "The addition of the sanitizing products is especially appreciated for promoting clean and healthy lactation. We really care about nursing moms and their infants at IU, and by supplying them with a little 'extra' love, it really shines through and will definitely increase room usage."

In addition to being a designated space for nursing mothers to feed their child or express milk through the day, campus wellness rooms also provide employees with the opportunity to take a mental break; recover from a non-contagious ailment, such as a headache; or learn about healthy living.

Find the wellness room locations on your campus.

Julie Newsom is a communications specialist with Healthy IU.