Picture this, you are a new mother just returning to work and you find out there are two private lactation rooms in your work building complete with comfy couches and a fridge for storage. This is perfect because you will need to access these rooms nearly 400 times over the course of the next six months!

You were hoping one of the rooms is on the 5th floor, near your desk, but unfortunately one room is on the 3rd floor and the other is on the 9th. You’ll just have to allow for a few extra minutes to head down a couple of floors, no big deal.

When you make your first visit to the 3rd floor lactation room, you realize it’s locked. There is a sign that says, “Please retrieve key from the 11th floor reception desk.” Slightly irritated and uncomfortable in more ways than one, you go up eight floors to retrieve the key to the room. The person at the desk looks at you apologetically and tells you someone else already has the key to the room. Same goes for the room on the 9th floor. Both rooms are occupied, and you’ll have to come back. “Try again in a half hour or so. Maybe 45 minutes.” You are due to present in a very important meeting within the next hour, and now you have to decide whether to skip the meeting or to pump in the stall of a public restroom.

As the Wellness Coordinator for the City and County of Denver, Lizzie Schoon was already aware of this exact predicament when she attended Peak Academy’s Black Belt training, and she was itching to do something about it . . .

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“I’m not sure how many women stopped by my desk to talk to me about the need for more and better lactation rooms,” says Lizzie. “Then I got pregnant and had to use them myself when I came back from leave, and it was obvious that we needed more.”

In her research, Lizzie found that there are at least 25 nursing mothers in the Webb building every year, nursing 2-3 times a day for 6 months on average. That’s 9,750 visits to a lactation area per year just in the Webb building!

As she dug deeper, she realized that nursing mothers were wasting at least 15 minutes each time they tried to access a lactation room (this included going to a different floor, retrieving a key to the locked room, and waiting for occupied rooms). That means, over the course of six months, a nursing mother was wasting almost 100 hours just trying to access a lactation space. That’s a soft cost of $2,500 per mother. At 25 mothers a year, that is a soft cost of over $60,000! A change was needed.

Lizzie discovered that some agencies had gone so far as to creating their own rooms in any space they could find. From here, she worked with Facilities management, the Mayor’s Office of Women and Families, Parks and Recreation, the District Attorney’s office, and Public Works to standardize some of these makeshift spaces. They made sure the rooms had fridges, storage for pumps, and nice chairs. Most importantly, the team changed the locks to the rooms so they just lock from the inside. That way, mothers would no longer have to sign out keys.

Instead of signing out a key, mothers can now book all the rooms through Outlook calendar. This eliminates the overlap and makes certain that mothers have the freedom to access the rooms based on their own schedules, not everyone else’s.

“Being able to schedule the room through Outlook is amazing! It guarantees that the room will be available when I need it, which helps me plan the rest of my work day more effectively,” says Alyx Sparrow, a new mother and Talent and Acquisition employee in the Denver Office of Human Resources.

Before expectant mothers even go on leave, they now receive information outlining exactly what spaces are available and where they are located. Lizzie hopes that this will greatly reduce the number of times new mothers were using bathrooms, abandoned offices, or file rooms to pump.

In the end, there are a total of eight fully-equipped lactation rooms in the Webb building rather than two, and Lizzie’s innovation resulted in a soft cost savings of over $55,000. More importantly, this incredible innovation has relieved new mothers of this stress as they come back to work during one of the most life-altering transitions anyone can experience.

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