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While being a working mother is typically hard, being a working mother who is also a nursing mother has its own unique challenges. You not only have to balance work and family, but you have to also balance the cyclical flow of milk streaming from your breasts. You must be sure to pump on schedule, which requires making the time and having the materials and facility available — not always an easy thing to do if you work outside the home.
Having an employer who helps, helps
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, seems to recognize the difficulties moms who pump face. As an employer they do all they can to support their breastfeeding workers. They have a Breastfeeding Support Program through their "Work, Life and Engagement" employee program, which includes access to online informational resources and telephone breastfeeding support. They have a specific, detailed plan regarding employee options and supervisor responsibilities. They offer alternative work schedules for new moms, and have 14 Mother's Rooms available. But the way they outfit their Mother's Rooms goes above and beyond. Not only are their Mother's Rooms stocked with refrigerators for milk storage, microwaves for equipment sanitation and hospital-grade breast pumps — which some employees qualify for free accessories for — but now they have a vending machine stocked with breastfeeding supplies as well.
Everything but the milk
The breastfeeding support vending machine made its debut in June of 2014, and carries almost everything a pumping mom could need. It includes complete accessory kits for the two brands of hospital-grade breast pumps used in the Mother's Rooms, breast pads, bottle, milk storage bags, nipple cream, microwave sanitizing bags and accessory parts for personal-use breast pumps. All items are discounted to special employee pricing, and they even accept credit and debit cards.
The idea came from a mom
The vending machine is thanks to Meg Stoltzfus, a manager of the Work, Life and Engagement program at Johns Hopkins. She was once a working and pumping mother herself and knows full well the challenges it entails. Meg told the Baltimore Sun the idea for a pumping supply machine came to her while at an airport in 2013. She noticed the various items now available for purchase using vending machines, and felt it would be a great way to provide needed supplies to moms who work unconventional hours when stores are often closed. Meg specifically worked with the vending machine manufacturer to allow the machine to dispense pumping gear. She believes it to be the only one of its kind, although other institutions have reached out wanting one for their facilities as well.
For Meg, the vending machine is just an extension of the Johns Hopkins desire to keep workers happy. "It ties into our mission of retaining wonderful employees," she said. "(E)mployees whose companies provide breastfeeding support consistently report improved morale, better satisfaction with their jobs, and higher productivity," says the Johns Hopkins breastfeeding support page. Clearly, Johns Hopkins is doing all it can to support their breastfeeding workers.