Breastfeeding-friendly space opens on campus

A student helped change the social work lounge into a breastfeeding lounge.

Senior social work major Lydia Smith (left), and Bernie Newman, the interim Social Work department chair, transformed a lounge on the ninth floor of Ritter Annex into a safe space for breastfeeding mothers in October. ASH LAVACCA FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Ashley Torres, a master’s of social work student, is often late to class because she is trying to find a place to breastfeed on Main Campus.

In 2014, Philadelphia passed a law that allows all women to breastfeed in public and at work — but the law doesn’t say anything specifically about students. Torres often resorts to the bathroom in the Commuter Lounge.

In October 2016, senior social work major Lydia Smith noticed the lack of breastfeeding resources for student mothers. She contacted Bernie Newman, the social work department chair, to discuss turning the social work lounge on the ninth floor of Ritter Annex into a breastfeeding safe space.

Smith and Newman contacted the Maternity Care Coalition, an organization that provides resources to mothers in Philadelphia, to get certified by its decal program.

To qualify for the decal program, businesses must fill out a pledge to support mothers by allowing breastfeeding, said Katja Pigur, the director of breastfeeding services for MCC. Businesses must also train their employees to welcome nursing mothers and be aware of negative reactions from other customers.

The social work lounge opened in October and has a Maternity Care Coalition decal to represent the space as breastfeeding-friendly. Mothers can also place a sign on the door to notify others that they are breastfeeding.

Smith got the idea when she started to work at the Food and Wellness Network in Frankford as part of a year-long internship during her senior year. The organization provides food and formula to low-income families. Smith noticed a trend in women using formula instead of breastmilk.

“There’s a lot of stigma around breastfeeding, and I think families are often discouraged by that and I wanted to normalize it,” Smith said. “People freak out, ‘Oh my god, it’s a breast.’ But [women] are just feeding their child.”

Torres wasn’t aware of the lounge until recently, but as soon as she discovered it, she started to use it. The only other breastfeeding location on Main Campus is a Mamava suite, a private space for women to pump on the second floor of the Student Center that opened last June.

“[The Student Center] is too far from my class,” Torres said. “I can’t go all the way to that building in the middle of class. It takes about 30 minutes to pump milk.”

Torres wants to see the university create lactation rooms in every building.

According to Philadelphia law, faculty members, unlike students, have the legal right to be accommodated with a break to nurse in a clean and private space. Newman said she has not found this to be case at Temple.

“I had an adjunct at Ambler and the only place she could go was the bathroom to get privacy because she didn’t have an her own office,” she said.

Pigur said there is often a discrepancy between the law and the actual implementation of breastfeeding support, which often leaves women unaware of their rights. She said corporations should make their employers aware of the law by creating an official breastfeeding accommodation policy.

“When things happen in an informal way … some women get lucky with a supportive supervisor … but there are certain employees who would never ask their supervisor because they would assume they wouldn’t understand,” Pigur said.

Smith said she hopes to start normalizing breastfeeding at Temple.

“Of course it’s everyone’s personal choice,” she said. “But maybe if we made it more normalized it would help. I said to myself, ‘Where can we start?’ and I thought, ‘Temple.’’’

Kait Moore can be reached at

CORRECTION: In a version of this article that appeared in print, it mischaracterized a 2014 Philadelphia law. The law allows women to pump at work while breastfeeding with a child in public was already allowed.

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