Sjoukje van Dellen, together with Barbara Wisse en Mark Mobach explored the effects of lactation room quality on working mothers’ feelings and thoughts related to breastfeeding and work in two experimental studies. In a randomized controlled trial and a field experiment, the authors found that lactation room quality influences mothers’ stress, thoughts about milk expression at work, perceived organizational support, and subjective well-being. It is concluded that not only the availability, but also the quality of lactation rooms is important in facilitating the combination of breastfeeding and work.
The article was published open access and can be found here.
The challenging combination of breastfeeding and work is one of the main reasons for early breastfeeding cessation. Although the availability of a lactation room (defined as a private space designated for milk expression or breastfeeding) is important in enabling the combination of breastfeeding and work, little is known about the effects of lactation room quality on mothers’ feelings and thoughts related to breastfeeding and work. We hypothesized that a high-quality lactation room (designed using the Theory of Supportive Design) would cause mothers to experience less stress, have more positive thoughts about milk expression at work, perceive more organizational support, and report more subjective well-being, than a low-quality lactation room. In an online randomized controlled trial (Study 1), Dutch mothers (N = 267) were shown either a high-quality or a low-quality lactation room (using pictures and descriptions for the manipulation) and were then asked about their feelings and thoughts. In a subsequent field experiment (Study 2) we modified the lactations rooms in a large organization in Groningen, the Netherlands, to manipulate lactation room quality, and asked mothers (N = 61) who used either a high-quality or low-quality lactation room to fill out surveys to assess the dependent variables. The online study showed that mothers exposed to the high-quality lactation room anticipated less stress, more positive cognitions about milk expression at work, more perceived organizational support, and more subjective well-being than mothers exposed to the low-quality lactation room (p < 0.05). Moreover, the effect of lactation room quality on perceived organizational support was especially pronounced for mothers who were higher in environmental sensitivity. The field experiment showed that use of the high-quality room led to less reported stress than use of the low-quality room (p < 0.05). We also found that mothers who were higher in environmental sensitivity perceived more control over milk expression at work and experienced more subjective well-being in the high-quality condition than in the low-quality condition (p < 0.05). The current studies show that not only the availability, but also the quality of lactation rooms is important in facilitating the combination of breastfeeding and work.