Courthouse's new lactation room 'not pretty,' but it meets letter of new law


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URBANA — Pumping breast milk in a walk-in storage closet may not be a nursing mother's dream, but the new public lactation space at the Champaign County Courthouse has three things going for it.

It's a private spot, it has a table and chairs, and it's not in a germy bathroom.

The new lactation space is being provided in a small first-floor storage room at the county courthouse in Urbana to meet the requirements of a new state law that took effect June 1.

The law requires any building housing a circuit courtroom to provide a private space for nursing moms to pump breast milk that isn't in a bathroom. The law specifies the lactation room must have, at a minimum, a table, a chair and an electrical outlet.

The lactation space at the Champaign County Courthouse will continue to be used as storage space for paper products such as paper towels and toilet paper, according to county Facilities Director Dana Brenner.

This was the best the county could come up with to meet the new legal requirements, because there's not much available space at the courthouse to spare, Brenner said.

Eventually, the county will shift storage to the back of the room and hang a curtain between the storage items and the table and chairs, "so it will be a little better situation," he said.

Some permanent signs will also be added, Brenner said.

"It's not pretty, but we're trying to make it as good as we can," he said.

The new state law also encourages that courthouse lactation rooms include a sink with running water if possible. For the space at the Champaign County Courthouse, that isn't possible, Brenner said.

The new state law fills a gap in legal requirements for lactation spaces.

Another state law that took effect last year requires workplaces to provide reasonable break times for nursing employees to pump breast milk and to make reasonable efforts to provide a private space for them that isn't in a restroom. But that law doesn't cover courthouse visitors, such as jurors or spectators at trials, who may be in a courthouse for hours at a time.

Valerie Koress, community nutrition coordinator at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, characterized the new lactation space at the Champaign County courthouse as "a very sad room."

Surroundings matter for nursing mothers who need to pump breast milk away from home, she said.

"Breastfeeding is a hormonal process, so it's definitely affected by how a mom feels when she's pumping," she said.

The public health district's lactation room, for example, has soft colors, soft lighting, a couch, recliner chair and a changing station, and it's used by both employees and public health clients, she said.

It's also important for hygiene's sake that pumping breast milk and breastfeeding aren't done in a restroom, Koress said.

"You wouldn't prepare your lunch in a bathroom," she said.