BY NATALY VASQUEZ
Many women who are mothers of newborns have a hard time coming back to work because they don’t know where they are going to be when they need to pump their milk or where they are going to store it. It is stressing especially when mothers are trying to produce milk as the stress level goes higher, it could affect the milk production. There is also something to consider, what kind of environment is a mother in when she needs to release milk?
Joan Hanson, principal at Dool Elementary School noticed that some of her teacher who were new mothers, were having a hard time coming back to work or they asked for a leave of absence. That is when Hanson discovered an air conditioned room inside the cafeteria, next to the women’s restroom. She then came up with the idea of making that room a “comfort room” for new mothers who teach at Dool. “The room was perfect and it happened to be next to the women’s restroom, so it was in a good location. I then thought how not every school has this situation, so we found an opportunity. We found out a teacher was pregnant, so I said let’s go for it. I got approved by everyone, including the district,” she said.
The district gave the school permission and support, but there were no funds to make the room a comfortable setting. Hanson contributed to the room for the well being of her staff. She bought furniture, including a small refrigerator. She made the room welcoming and soothing. Maintenance staff also contributed to the room; they cleaned the windows and painted the doors. They re-did the floor and repainted the walls. The way it works is that the new mothers who are teachers have the right to have the time to take off and use the room to pump their milk. They are not allowed to bring the baby, but they have that time to pump and store the milk in the refrigerator. They are allowed to use the special room during recess or lunch, and, if necessary during class time when other staff can cover the class. However, staff members can only cover a certain amount of time.
“I feel so happy that the teachers who use the room do not have to worry about carrying their milk or placing it in an unsanitary place. The nursery room is a perfect privacy, the teachers feel safe. It also increases the feeling of coming back. New mothers who are teachers will feel happy to be back now that they have a room for their needs,” Hanson said.
No other school in the Imperial Valley has provided a special on-site room for staff who nurse and Principal Hanson hopes that other schools take consideration their staffs’ personal needs. In the future if there is no new mother that could use the room, then the room can be use for other reasons. It can be used for teachers or staff members who are having a hard time in their life. They can use that room to release stress. Also, if a social worker came, they could use that room to talk to the child in a comfortable setting. The room is not necessarily for women, so the room is not gender specific.
Claudia Contreras Harrington, a new mother who is also a teacher at Dool has used the room, and she feels so blessed and fortunate to have Hanson as part of the administration. “They told me there was a surprise for me the day I came back to work. They walked me to the room, and as soon as I walked in, everything was set up. It was painted and had new flooring. There was a mini fridge and a rocking chair. The set up made me feel good-it made me feel at home when being a new mom and having to come back to work, it is important to have a place that is comfortable and also provides privacy. Hanson has given me that. She has been there for me and even prepped the room for me,” Harrington said with much content.