Lactation Rooms Offer Support for New Moms

Duke’s 22 lactation rooms provide privacy for mothers returning to work with breastfeeding needs

Erika McRoberts inside the Duke North lactation room she uses to pump breast milk.
Erika McRoberts uses a Duke North lactation room when she needs to pump breast milk. Photo by Beth Hatcher.

Like many new moms, Dr. Claire Siburt strives to balance work and family.

But returning to work while breastfeeding hasn’t been a concern because Siburt uses one of Duke’s 22 lactation rooms to pump breastmilk for her six-month-old son, Will.

“Breastfeeding is a ton of work,” said Siburt, assistant director of programs in Duke’s academic resource center. “Having this space and acceptance of breastfeeding from the employer is really important.”

The private lactation rooms, which are spread across the University and Health System campus, require prior registration for room access, which is granted through an approved DukeCard ID. The rooms are open to Duke faculty, staff and students, who must schedule time in a room in advance.

The number of lactation rooms has gradually grown since the program’s implementation 17 years ago, when two rooms in Duke North served as Duke’s only lactation rooms. In addition to lactation rooms, Duke offers other family-friendly benefits such as infertility resources, parental leave and support groups.

“Duke has always been a forward-thinking institution,” said Regina McKoy, program coordinator for Staff and Family Programs, a unit in Duke Human Resources. “The lactation rooms are another benefit for working moms. The rooms help them feel more comfortable returning to work.”

Siburt, whose work at Duke promotes education in STEM fields, has an office in East Campus’ Academic Advising Center building, but her role at Duke takes her to West Campus’s French Family Science Center once a week. When there, she currently uses a lactation room in the building to pump for about 15 minutes twice a day. She stores her milk in a portable cooler and then a refrigerator back in her East Campus office.

“The room is extremely convenient both in where it’s located and how it’s set up,” said Siburt, who brings her own breast pump. The room has seating for two with each pumping station partitioned by a curtain.

Erika McRoberts, a clinical nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, uses one of Duke’s original lactation rooms during night shifts in Duke North. McRoberts, who had son, Jameson, July 31, 2016, typically uses the lactation room two times a night during her 12-hour shift. She has been breastfeeding her son for 11 months and hopes to continue as long as she can.

“I choose to breastfeed because I know it is the best nutrition that I can give my child. Not only does it provide all the nutrients and nutrition the baby needs, but also it’s the best way I can help my baby’s immune system, “McRoberts said. “I love that Duke supports breastfeeding moms.”