World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1-7 in an effort to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies all around the world. In 2013, Carmen Chapman, Administrative Support Coordinator of the Department of Public Health, spearheaded the development of the Fresno State Breastfeeding Coalition. She shares her journey with us.
When Chapman returned to work after the birth of her first child in 2010, she struggled with finding a proper place to “express” her breast milk. Because there was no accessible location on campus to do this, often times she was confined to public restrooms or her small office space during break periods. She realized during that time that other mothers on campus were going through the same struggle.
According to the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, known as Title V, employers are required to provide a private space, other than a bathroom, to “express” breastmilk, which means to take milk from the breast either by hand or pump.
“Many employers are not aware of this law and as a result many new mothers who work, struggle to find a private area to express breast milk,” Chapman said. “Often times this hinders women from being able to nurse their child, which is not the best option for the health of mother and child.”
Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Chapman took matters into her own hands and decided to find a solution to this problem. Her years of hard work and dedication resulted in the establishment of the Fresno State Breastfeeding Coalition in 2013, as well as multiple lactation stations on campus for staff members and students.
Because of her own experience as a mother, she was inspired to establish the Coalition, as she was able to empathize the feeling of having to express breast milk in a bathroom stall or other unsanitary settings. The ultimate goal of the Coalition is to establish Fresno State as a breastfeeding friendly campus by aiding in the development of lactation stations.
“It is preferred to have at least one lactation station per building,” Chapman said. “It takes five minutes to set up the breast pump, 20 minutes to pump and five minutes to break down. For students who are in between classes, ideally you would want to be in the building that you are having your class in.”
Staff members currently have two designated lactation stations located in the Joyal Administration and Engineering East buildings. Meanwhile, students have three designated stations that could be found on the second floor of the University Student Union, the third floor of the Family and Food Science building and located centrally in the Frank W. Thomas building.
It wasn’t until this last academic year that the student-designated rooms were put into place. The road to get there was tricky, as it encompassed a dual approach. Staff members were legally covered by Title V. On the contrary, it did not cover students. Therefore, a separate approach had to be enacted.
“Today it is required by law, but when I first initiated it five and a half years ago no one seemed to know that,” Chapman said. “When I was inquiring more about it through research, I found out that it is a law and employers had to provide a space, so I called Human Resources, who found out that they did have to provide me a place as an employee, but they did not have to cover the students.”
After being told by administration that as a staff member, she could not advocate on behalf of students, Chapman began to seek out public health students to get involved. In order for lactation stations to be considered a need for students, students themselves had to inquire about it, she said.
Nancy Baus, a breastfeeding mother and nutrition student at the time, became one of the first students to collaborate with Chapman in forming the group as a student run organization. When her daughter was four months old, Baus returned to Fresno State, determined to finish her degree and graduate. However, the ability to express breast milk in between classes proved difficult.
“I would carry my breast pump with me,” Baus said in a 2013 Collegian article. “It was concealed in a black backpack along with all of my books, computer and everything else required for my classes.”
She mentioned that producing breast milk in a bathroom stall was both unsanitary and embarrassing for her, as she struggled with organizing all the different breast pump parts, while maintaining cleanliness.
Chapman remembered Baus as someone who was just as passionate as she was about the issue. She noted that Baus also struggled with not having a designated private space to express breast milk, and was confined to pumping in restroom stalls and even in her car.
Chapman’s next move involved meeting with University President Joseph Castro, who took great interest in the matter and referred her to the Human Resources department. Shortly after, a couple lactation stations were put in place for staff – and finally, in 2015, three stations were provided for students.
“A woman’s right to have a space to express breast milk is not just an issue of formality, but it is very much a public health issue,” Chapman said. “It is a matter of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, and it not only affects the baby but it also affects the mother in health-related ways.”
In babies, breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by 36-50 percent, lower risk of respiratory tract disease by 72 percent and gastrointestinal infections by 64 percent. While in mothers, breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of Breast Cancer by 28-50 percent, Breast Cancer with family history by 59 percent and Coronary Heart Disease by 37 percent.
“Another important factor in breastfeeding is that it also help lowers the hormone balance associated with postpartum depression in new mothers,” Chapman said.”It is key to note that out of 55 healthy breast milk ingredients, only six of those ingredients are replicated in formula.”
While the Coalition continues to push for more lactation stations on campus, their primary goals is to educate the public on health issues related to breastfeeding.
“We are going to concentrate on education this year,” Chapman said. “This is part of what the Department of Public Health does. We educate the public of the importance of these health factors.”
Learn more about the Fresno State Breastfeeding Coalition by following them on their facebook page or contact Carmen Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A map of the lactation stations for students can be found here.
– Story written by Sierra Frank, CHHS Communication Student Assistant