Stacey Anne Goldyn-Moller is absolutely supportive when her contractor, Sarah Tobey, brings 1-year-old Rowan to Goldyn-Moller’s shop. No problem if Tobey needs to nurse.
Tobey isn’t self-conscious about nursing Rowan in the back room of Magpie Custom Creations in the Cortland Corset Building. Rowan isn’t, either.
“It doesn’t hurt that I’m not nervous; I have no shame about it,” Tobey said. as Rowan switched sides. “If I weren’t able to do this, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be at home.”
But not every mother is as comfortable with nursing a baby or pumping breast milk into a bottle. And that’s where Goldyn-Moller has a challenge.
Her shop is 300 square feet of retail sales area and a workspace with a sewing table, machines and racks of fabric. There’s barely room for the playpen and none whatsoever for a private area where nursing mothers can pump milk in private.
“There are places in the building I could find to accommodate, but that’s because our landlord is so great,” Goldyn-Moller said.
1,000 employers, 1,000 challenges
Cortland County has 1,026 employers, and each one faces a unique challenge in helping mothers pump milk. That’s why the Cortland County Breastfeeding Partnership brought lactation expert Cathy Carothers to town last week for two sessions on how to promote workplace lactation –– one for employers and one for medical providers.
The health benefits to mother and child are well-documented, but the benefits to the employer? Not so much. But they do exist, Carothers told listeners, in increased employee retention, reduced use of sick time, greater productivity and cost-savings from not having to train new workers.
“Employers think everything is fine, but there’s not a spot for lactation station,” said Patty Thon, a supervising early intervention service coordinator at the Cortland County Health Department. “The small employers have an issue, but the bigger ones do, too.”
Helping workers lactate is the law. It’s a flexible law, to be sure, but the law
– A private space — that is not a bathroom — free from intrusion by co-workers and the public.
– Enough time to express milk, about 20 minute two or three times a day, and time to get to and from the lactation area.
The right sort of space
Corey Bliss, the human resources director at Forkey Construction and Fabrication Inc. in Cortlandville, has 130,000 square feet of space to work with. Of Forkey’s 102 employees, only six are women. Only two of those are of childbearing years. One of them is nursing.
“We have a lot of space, but we don’t have a lot of privacy,” Bliss said. Most of those 130,000 square feet are open manufacturing space, with just a small suite of offices. The mother uses one of those, for now. “We’ve made do, but it’s not ideal,” Bliss said.
Cortland County health officials will help any employer find the ideal solution said Thon and Pam Griffith, a supervising public health nurse. “We’ll meet one-on-one with them,” Griffith said. “We’d be thrilled,” Thon added.
The requirements are flexible enough that many solutions work. Small employers, like Goldyn-Moller, can share space. Spare offices, even closets, can be equipped. Construction companies can set up a small tent, portable shack or even a truck on a building site. Even a couple of screens of office dividers in the corner of manufacturing space is good enough.
The important part, Griffith and Thon said, is to communicate. Both employer and employee have the responsibility.
“The employer needs to reach out first,” Thon said. “For some women, it would be difficult to talk to their employer about it beforehand.”
Flexibility, and communications
Griffith likes the idea of making lactation policies part of employee orientation.
Bliss said Forkey is looking to renovate space vacated by a tenant to expand, and a multifunction room that could double as a lactation station is part of her plan. “We do have a couple more office areas and other spaces,” she said.
But that leaves Goldyn-Moller. She has 300 square feet. That’s it. Maybe, she said, thinking out loud, she could borrow space from one of the Cortland Corset building’s other tenants. Maybe several companies could share a space. And maybe she can find a way to add a lactation station when she expands.
“Space is very flexible,” she said. Her commitment to creating a family-friendly company is not.