San Jose

San Jose Considers Lactation Rooms for Nursing Mothers

The San Jose City Council is entering the debate over providing places in offices and public buildings for nursing mothers.

The city is considering building three new lactation rooms at various locations. But some are asking whether the private rooms are helping breastfeeding moms or hiding them.

Mari Lee Jennings, executive director of the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, says on any given day, nursing moms could be seen taking advantage of any quiet little corner of the museum they can find.

Nicole Parker is one of those moms.

"My preferred chair is the chair in the wonder cabinet because it’s a little more private, and your back is to the crowd," Parker says.

San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra says that's unacceptable.

On Tuesday, Kalra asked the city to include $165,000 in its next budget to build three lacatation rooms. One at City Hall, one at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo and one at the Children's Discovery Museum.

"Sometimes in our cities and community, we haven’t always provided those places for women," Kalra says. "And in this case, for nursing mothers, in order to be inclusive, we should provide clean places, dignified spaces that make sense."

The private rooms would include sinks, outlets - and quiet.

Parker says she and other nursing mothers just want a place they can be comfortable in their skin. "Because breastfeeding is normal and natural," she says. "But when you have to do it with an audience, it can be a little scary."

Nikki Abercrombie agrees that nursing in public can be uncomfortable for everyone. "Just people looking or they don’t really want you there," she says. "There are certain people who think you shouldn’t be seen."

Other moms hope pushing through the initiative doesn't mean pushing moms out of the public eye.

"As long as it’s not a way for companies, employers to bully women into a particular place," says mother Elena Adams.

Abercrombie says it shouldn't be about promoting a no-breastfeeding-in-public image. "On the other hand, I think it’d be nice to have a place that’s quiet where you can go," she says.

Each of the three proposed lactation stations would cost $55,000, according to the city. The mayor is scheduled to unveil his budget plan on Friday.

If the lactation rooms are approved, the museum hopes to begin construction in September.

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