An eyesore, at best, sits in the heart of the student union, right near Chick-Fil-A. A hulking contraption that looks awfully out of place, this spaceship of sorts is actually a lactation pod — a designated breastfeeding space for mothers on campus. Noble cause, poor execution.
The aim of these pods is to meet regulations set by the Affordable Care Act — a set of laws that, in part, ensures that working mothers have the place, time and privacy necessary to nurse their children. The university has dropped the ball on this one, adhering to these laws in a grossly apathetic manner. These are mothers and babies, not aliens and eggs. So, why give them a lifeless, lackluster space and present it as though it is some sort of luxury?
The university defines these spaces in their policy for nursing moms: “A private space (not a bathroom, restroom, or locker room) will be available for an employee to breastfeed her child or to express milk using a breast pump. The space may be used for other purposes, but will be available for the nursing mothers’ use as needed. The identified space must be shielded from view and free from any intrusions from co-workers and the public. Each designated space includes a table, a chair, and an electrical outlet.”
This definition leaves room for interpretation for different buildings on campus to adhere accordingly. Still, the way these rules have been implemented in the student union are an inconsiderate misfire by all accounts.
Sure, the pods, created by the company Mamava, do meet these requirements. They provide a private space equipped with a table, chair and electrical outlet that is shielded from public view and free from intrusions. They also do it in a way that reeks of a lack of authenticity.
The idea of a “lactation pod” is impersonal, sterile and sad. The same goes for its design. It looks like a UFO inside and outside, with no effort toward providing a comforting atmosphere. The inside is white and sterile, the seats are made of cold, slick plastic and the sky pattern printed on the walls is demeaning. It’s like they’re saying, “Look at the plastic, fake sky while you pump on the cold plastic for up to an hour of your work day.”
Nursing, lactating and breastfeeding are all very personal and intimate experiences that aren’t satisfied by a spaceship home. If a parent is comfortable having that experience in public then by all means they should be able to, but for the parents that are more reserved, this space does not do the job.
It’s private, but it’s terribly public; it’s isolated, yet surrounded by people. If the aim is to provide a safe space for people to nurse, why not renovate another space in the union that could actually be comforting, private and quiet? Or, even better, why not move the pod to a less congested area of the union?
The pod’s front-and-center location and poor design choices scream virtue signaling. It seems like the university is more concerned with appearing as though they care about the needs of lactating parents without actually making any proper changes to benefit them in a thoughtful and intentional way.
Everything about “lactation pods” screams false inclusivity, from the language used to describe them to their locations. It is titled and designed as if an alien came down to earth and was tasked with its creation.
To the university, a lactation pod is more useful for what it says to people who do not actually use it. It makes UM appear inclusive. They win all the “woke” points without any work or thought.
Overall, it is unfortunate that a more appropriate and accessible option was not chosen. It is unfortunate that people have to settle for a lazy attempt from the university to nurse comfortably. It is unfortunate that nursing is even capitalized on.
Avery Thomas is a junior accounting major from Madison, Miss. She is a social media editor for The Daily Mississippian.