Bellevue College, with its Affirmation of Inclusion and student services, aims to be an accommodating institution for all of its students. An example of this is the Mother’s Room in the C building that is open to anyone who would like a private place to nurse their children. This isn’t unique to Bellevue College, however, as a revised provision in the Affordable Care Act requires that “covered employers provide eligible employees with the right to pump breast milk on the job.”
According to www.withinreachwa.org, “90 percent of women in Washington state choose to nurse their baby, and most plan to continue when they return to work.” The provision in the ACA requires that women have a private place that is not a restroom in order to either pump milk or feed their child. It also makes sure that early mothers are provided with enough time to do so, and protection from retaliation by employers for exercising these rights.
The door code is available at the front desk of Student Programs. Having a sign in sheet keeps the room private and makes sure that it is being used correctly. The room itself includes a sink and a private curtained area in which to breastfeed.
Since Bellevue College is an educational institution as well as an employer, pregnant and nursing students and employees are protected by both the ACA and Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendment of 1972. Title IX requires that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Title IX Coordinator, Rachel Wellman is a resource for students who feel that they are not being treated equally due to their gender. She has had the position for two years, and in that time has not had any students deal with issues based on their right to nurse.
As a mother, Wellman said she breastfed her child, and was ready for any pushback she might have gotten for doing so in public. While some people suggest that women should cover their nursing child with a blanket, Wellman explained why this isn’t the best option for the baby or the mom.
Part of this was just that trying to cover her baby required a lot of coordination, but she also had safety concerns. “As you get older you have the capacity to turn your head if you need additional air, but babies continue to inhale the carbon dioxide they just exhaled unless air-flow happens naturally.”
Students with questions about the room or about their right to breastfeed can reach out to Student Programs, Wellman or any of the breastfeeding organizations in King County and Washington as a whole.