JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Brooke Army Medical Center installed two new lactation pods earlier this month for use by staff members and beneficiaries.
The pods will augment the three lactation rooms already at BAMC. Mothers who choose to use the rooms can either bring their breast pump equipment or they can feed their children in the pods.
“Some women are embarrassed to even ask if there is a space where they can express,” said Michelle Valdez, BAMC’s Graduate Medical Education executive manager and project manager for the Lactation Pods Project. “It’s true that moms can feed anywhere, but we wanted to make sure that we had a place where they could have their privacy.”
Although by law, mothers can pump or breastfeed in any location they choose, BAMC’s lactation rooms and new lactation pods provide privacy for staff and beneficiaries who choose to use them.
“For staff, we realized that each unit had to develop its own dedicated space (for lactating mothers),” said Dena Miller, an inpatient lactation consultant at BAMC. “Units usually had makeshift rooms.”
This meant that for many years, BAMC staff members who needed to express breast milk would use a designated space like a locker room or a closet that had been cleaned out and cleared for use. However, the only space for beneficiaries to either express or feed their infants was in the pediatric area or in their rooms if they were inpatients
Over the course of several years, BAMC did designate three locations as lactation rooms. These rooms satisfied Army Directive 2015-43, the Revised Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Policy. However, the new pods will ensure there are adequate facilities for mothers who wish to nurse or express in areas other than pediatrics.
“We’re a medical facility, so our staff really needed to have adequate spaces,” said Carolyn Lowe, BAMC’s outpatient lactation consultant. “If they didn’t have time, then they wouldn’t pump. And, if they didn’t pump, then their milk supply would just go away.”
Although there are alternatives, many health providers do encourage breastfeeding, or using a mother’s breast milk, as the primary source of nourishment for newborns and babies. The new facilities at BAMC will give moms a secure and private location to either breastfeed or pump. The pods are lighted, have two bench seats – one on either side of the egg-shaped pod- and have electrical outlets so moms can plug in their own equipment. The pods do not have breast pump equipment.
One pod is located on the second floor adjacent to the C elevator and the second is right outside BAMC’s OB/GYN clinic. The pods, both of which are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, are accessible 24 hours a day via the free Mamava app. Moms can download the app to unlock the pods. Instructions on how to unlock the pods are on each of them.
“This was truly a team effort,” Valdez said. “The lactation consultants, the leadership, and everyone involved in this project, and in this process, put in a lot of work. I’m glad we have these facilities for our staff and for our patients.”