Humber nursing professor Sylwia Wojtalik would find moms breastfeeding their babies in school bathrooms regularly, hiding because of a stigma that has been an issue for mothers for a long time.
Every semester, Wojtalik would be approached by students who would request a break to feed their children.
“I discovered that many times they would be doing it in the bathroom,” she said. It concerned her to the point that it motivated her to find a better way for students and staff to breastfeed in public.
The solution were Breastfeeding Friendly Spaces, pods offering privacy, on the second floor of the Learning Resource Commons at North and another at the Welcome Centre at Lakeshore, the first at an Ontario college.
The pods are manufactured by Mamava, a Vermont-based company launched by two women.
The desire for privacy by nursing mothers was reflected in a 2015 survey of 2,393 people by Public Health England that showed one of five women who breastfeed try their best to hide it in public and a third of them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable feeding in public.
The poll showed although 72 per cent supported breastfeeding in public, but when it came to restaurants and public transportation, that number dropped to 57 per cent and 51 per cent.
Wojtalik, started her quest for breastfeeding friendly workplaces for students and staff around 2016.
Mamava has helped many students deal with the complication and difficulties of finding a safe spot for feeding. Wojtalik said she has even received letters from students expressing their gratitude for the benefits of having a feeding friendly zone.
She said she hopes this will lead to Humber being a breastfeeding friendly space and, in general, lead the school to start listening to students more often.
Former nursing student Marina — who requested to not have her last name published — sent Wojtalik a letter thanking her for her work in providing this service at Humber due to Marina’s past struggles.
“Some of the challenges I faced as a new mom is finding time to lactate between classes” Marina said. “I am very fortunate that my teachers have been very supportive.”
Wojtalik said she believes having a breastfeeding friendly space improves the students learning experiences.
“They would less likely miss classes and have a space to attend to their maternal and child need while studying,” she said.