The Need to Feed survey was developed as part of a larger project on lactation/feeding rooms on the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) campus. The larger project includes a grant from the UMD Student Facilities Fund to improve current facilities and establish new facilities if/where needed. The project is being conducted in partnership with The President’s Commission on Women’s Issues (PCWI) and the School of Public Health, with one project member joining the team from the College of Information Studies.
Purpose of the survey
UMD has no centralized information on or feedback about existing lactation/feeding facilities and no data on usage and user needs. This survey collected general demographic data, awareness and use of lactation/feeding facilities on campus, barriers to use of these spaces, and needs/desires for amenities in such spaces. Asking for feedback on existing facilities provides more insight into usage patterns and helps to increase awareness of these facilities. Identifying barriers to use of lactation/feeding room will help the project team to implement strategies to overcome those barriers, including establishment of new lactation/feeding rooms. Questions on necessary amenities provide the project team with essential guidance on what improvements to make to existing facilities.
We created a survey in Qualtrics containing 24 closed-ended questions, open for responses during the 2019 Spring and Summer semesters to campus staff, faculty, and students. The survey was available in English and Spanish. Respondents were recruited through campus-wide, college/department, and identity-specific (e.g., parents) email listservs and newsletters, as well as by word of mouth.
Inclusion in data analysis was set at 60% completion, as a number of important question had already been answered by this point in the survey. Responses meeting this threshold were downloaded into Microsoft Excel, where descriptive statistics of quantitative responses were calculated. Text answers to “other” categories were parsed for commonly occurring answers.
NB: Figures have been inserted as small thumbnails, but are high resolution images when clicked on.
A total of 373 started the survey, but only 344 responses reached the inclusion threshold.
13.1% of respondents were students, 64.5% were staff, and 22.2% were faculty. 1.16% were “other,” including 1 postdoc (0.3%), 2 affiliate/adjunct faculty (0.6%), and 1 alumni (0.3%); given the low numbers of these respondents, their responses were excluded for most of the analyses.
The majority (88.3%) of respondents identified as female. Those who identified as male accounted for 11.5% of respondents and there were 2 (0.01%) respondents that answered in one of the other categories offered in the survey (1 identified as genderqueer/gender non-conforming and 1 selected other).
The results from this question were confounded by respondents’ ability to select multiple options from an expansive list. An analysis of these data is ongoing.
Expressing, Nursing, and Bottle Feeding Outside the Home
Approximately two thirds of all respondents (N = 344) had expressed milk (65.4%), nursed at the breast/chest (65.7%), and bottle fed (65.1%) outside of their home. There was not a significant association between campus affiliation and whether respondents had done any of these tasks.
Of those that identified as female, 72.0% had expressed milk, 72.3% had nursed, and 67.8% had bottle fed outside the home. None of the respondents identifying as male had expressed milk or nursed outside the home; 39.3% had bottle fed outside the home.
Wanted a Private Space at UMCP to Express, Nurse, or Bottle Feed in the Last 2 Years
A majority (56.1%; n = 260) of respondents wanted a private space to express milk at UMCP in the last 2 years, whereas only a minority wanted a private space to nurse (36.8%; n = 261) or bottle feed (18.5%; n = 259). Figures 3 and 4 break responses to this question down by gender identification and campus affiliation.
Used a Private Space at UMCP to Express, Nurse, or Bottle Feed in the Last 2 Years
This question was only shown to those who expressed wanting a private space for these purposes. A majority (81.9%; 155) of respondents had used a private space to express milk at UMCP in the last 2 years, whereas only a minority had used a private space to nurse (47.7%; n = 153) or bottle feed (30.2%; n = 149). Figures 5 and 6 break responses to this question down by gender identification and campus affiliation.
What Kind of Private Space Did You Use at UMCP to Express, Nurse, or Bottle Feed in the Last 2 Years?
Figure 7 shows the breakdown of the types of private spaces used to express milk (n = 127), nurse (n = 73), and bottle feed (n = 45).
Figure 8 shows the private spaces used to express milk, broken down by affiliation.
Figure 9 shows the private spaces used to nurse, broken down by affiliation.
Figure 10 shows the private spaces used to bottle feed, broken down by affiliation.
Other places respondents expressed milk, nursed, and/or bottle fed were cars, outside, or in hallways and lobbies.
Why Respondents Did Not Use Designated Lactation/Feeding Rooms
Figure 11 shows why respondents did not use designated lactation/feeding rooms.
There were no significant associations between reasons for not using a designated lactation/feeding room and campus affiliation. However, students were approximately twice as likely (25.0%) to report accessibilities issues with using designated rooms versus staff (12.9%) and faculty (11.5%).
Other reasons given for not using designated rooms included:
- Difficulty in getting and retaining swipe card access
- Availability of time slots, usually in relation to two specific lactation/feeding rooms at UMCP (in the Edward St. John and Stamp buildings)
- Inability to find information about how to access a room, or who to contact to do so
- Wrong feeling/tone to the room, nearby toilets or other noisy, distracting, or busy areas, or it not really being a proper “room” at all (specifically, one “designated space” is actually the corner of a kitchen, another is a side room off a bathroom)
- Missing amenities in the room, such as no sockets, sink, or table, or inappropriate amenities, such as hard classroom-style chairs
Barriers Resulting in Prevention of Expressing, Nursing, or Bottle Feeding?
These barriers stopped 57.8% of all respondents (n = 109) from expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding at UMCP at least once. Barriers disproportionately affects people of different campus affiliations: 73.7% of students (n = 19), 55.1% of staff (n = 69), and 50% of faculty (n = 20) had been prevented from these activities at least once.
Almost 20% (19.1%; n = 63) of those who had been prevented from expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding at UMCP at least once reported that these barriers had prevented them from expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding as a whole.
Amenities in Lactation/Feeding Rooms
Three-quarters (77.5%; n = 111) of respondents felt that the current lactation/feeding rooms at UMCP do not meet the needs of campus community members or visitors.
Figure 12 shows the popularity of the amenities included in the survey.
Other amenities that were mentioned frequently included:
- Microwave for sanitization
- Sanitizing wipes to clean the room/surfaces before/after
- Fridge with a freezer section and/or ice maker
- Regular trash can, not just recycling and compost
- Cubicles/screens and multiple chairs (especially if the space is used a lot)
- Adjustable thermostat or heating/cooling fan
- Nice art
- Standardized scheduling and entry protocols
- Baby wipes, spare diapers
- Inspiration wall/journal
- Sharpies to label stuff
Comments on amenities included:
- The need for an indication that items in the room are cleaned regularly, especially if there are toys
- The sink should have soap and paper towels, not just running water
- The chair doesn’t have to be a glider, just comfortable
Preferred Name for Lactation/Feeding Rooms
Figure 13 shows that there was no overall consensus about what the best name for lactation/feeding rooms might be. However, there were certain very unpopular choices such as “feeding room” and “quiet room.”
Other suggestions included:
- Family Lounge and Lactation Room
- Lactation/Parental Room
- Family Room
- Family Needs Room
- Nursing Mothers Room
Comments and concerns included:
- Any implication that a room or private space might is required to express milk, nurse, or feed a baby: it is a legal right to do all of these things anywhere
- Any use of gendered language (e.g., breast, mother) may imply a gender restriction and non-female identifying individuals should feel just as able to feed or pump
- Calling it a “quiet room” is an misnomer because breast pumps are really loud
The Existence of Lactation/Feeding Rooms at UMCP
The majority of respondents (98.0%; n = 344) agree that there should be designated lactation/feeding rooms on campus; 3 male (11%) and 3 female (1.0%) respondents disagreed with designated spaces. Reasons for not supporting these spaces included:
- Space is at a premium on this campus. Not everyone has even a work space that is private. Pump at home and bring your bottles in. Or pump/feed in your office. [female]
- I suspect a limited number of staff would actually take advantage of such a thing where there is already scarce resources. [male]
- I would prefer to see rooms have multiple purposes, nap room, sick room etc. [female]
- Having these spaces carries a connotation that a person should only use those spaces and I should feel free to address these needs anywhere I feel comfortable as long as I am not a disturbance to others. [no gender preference provided]
- I have never seen the lactation rooms that are present in my building used for their intended purpose. My office is directly across from one. [male]
- Students are most likely to use designated lactation/feeding rooms and least likely to use private offices, probably because they are less likely to have their own private office.
- Students were also the most likely to be negatively affected—including being prevented from expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding entirely—by the lack of provision, inconvenience, or inaccessibility of a designated space.
- Respondents of all affiliation-types reported using their car to pump if there was no convenient private space.
- 1 in 5 staff had expressed milk in a bathroom. Staff also reported nursing and bottle feeding in a bathroom; faculty report expressing and nursing in bathroom.
- No student reported using bathroom for expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding.
- Barriers to lactation/feeding room use are predominantly logistical, such as not knowing where the rooms are, not having a room conveniently locating, and not being able to access the room.
- These barriers have real consequences to instances of expressing, nursing, and bottle feeding: most respondents had been prevented from doing one of these at least once while at UMCP. A greater proportion of students reported being prevented from expressing, nursing, or bottle feeding as a result of these barriers, perhaps because of their greater reliance on lactation/feeding rooms.
- Most respondents felt that the current rooms do not meet the needs of their users. Certain amenities, like sinks, internet access, electrical sockets, refrigerators, changing tables, a comfortable arm/glider chair, a microwave, and sanitizing wipes were the most important to respondents. Some respondents were concerned about cleanliness in general and indicated that they would like to know when the room was last cleaned.
- There was no consensus on what these rooms should be called and the most popular answer was likely because that was the terminology used in the survey (lactation/feeding room). Although some other suggestions were mentioned by a number of respondents, such as “Nursing Mothers Room,” we do not support names that are gendered (“mothers”), as these rooms can be used by those of any gender identity that need to express milk, nurse, feed, or see to their young child(ren)’s needs. We also do not support names that imply only one kind of activity can occur in these rooms (“nursing”).
- The support for lactation/feeding rooms was almost universal; proportionately, more male disagreed with their existence than female-identified respondents. There were several male-identified respondents who seemed to take the survey simply to provide snarky, unhelpful responses. The two male-identified respondents that provided their reason for not supporting these spaces gave non-use as their reasons—we do not support this as a reason for not providing these spaces, as they are clearly needed and well-used, especially in certain buildings in campus. Suggesting that these spaces should be multipurpose is also a notion that we reject: using these as “nap” rooms could lead to long periods of unavailability for those who need these spaces for expressing, nursing, bottle feeding, or young child care—needs that often cannot be delayed for long; allowing sick people to use these rooms is unacceptable when food is being produced/fed in them.
- Limitations: There were a number of limitations of this survey: whether there was true representation of users or potential users of lactation/feeding rooms; sample size; and some unideal wording of survey questions.
- UMCP has no centralized webpage with up-to-date details of existing facilities, including what is in existing lactation/feeding room, who to contact for access, or how to reserve time. A thorough in-person assessment of each designated lactation/feeding room needs to be completed so that accurate details about amenities, as well as location and access details, can be provided on a central webpage
- The in-person assessment of each lactation/feeding room will yield what, of the most important identified by respondents, amenities are missing in each lactation/feeding room. The Need to Feed project has funds from the UMD Student Facilities Fund to ensure all existing facilities have the most requested amenities.
- By combining these survey findings with an up-to-date map of existing lactation/feeding rooms, sites for new facilities in areas on campus with the most need will be identified. Working together with building managers, new lactation/feeding rooms will be created.