From the outside, the lactation room looks like any other door in the office building, except for the sign. “Breastfeeding Is Welcome Here,” it announces in pink script.
Decorated with photos of babies and outfitted with hospital-grade breast pumps, this room at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene represents both a haven and an opportunity for moms who want to continue their jobs while pumping milk for their infants.
“It does make you feel more empowered. It makes you feel like your trajectory is intact,” says Vibhuti Arya, a professor at St. John’s University who was tenured shortly after her maternity leave and pumped milk at the department for five months. “Was it hard? Heck yeah. But I was able to do it.”
Lactation rooms like this were created around the country after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The law required companies with more than 50 workers to provide adequate break time and space for certain employees to express milk at work, while also requiring insurers provide coverage for breast pumps and lactation support.