Dodging bicycles and skateboards, Fresno State students shuffle through a myriad of backpacks to make it to their next class. However, it’s a different struggle for mothers on campus who are searching for a secluded area to pump breast milk for their children.
Fresno State student Nancy Baus is the president and creator of The Breastfeeding Coalition. She said her dream is to make people aware of how important breast-feeding is, and she is doing all she can to bring breast-feeding locations to the campus.
“The Breastfeeding Coalition is a two-part organization,” Baus said. “The first is an all student organization that revolves around volunteer work and advocacy. The second part is the actual coalition where everyone, including faculty, staff and the community, come together.”
Baus said the coalition discusses ways to help protect, promote and support breast-feeding in order to help increase breast-feeding rates in Fresno County.
Two years ago, Baus returned to Fresno State to complete her degree. When she came back to school, her daughter Avery was 4 months old.
Baus was determined to accomplish her dream of finishing her degree and says her goal was to breast-feed her daughter because she knew it was the best choice after educating herself on the benefits of breast-feeding.
“I would carry my breast pump with me,” Baus said. “It was concealed in a black backpack along with all of my books, computer and everything else required for my classes.”
Baus said that during her first week she had a very difficult time trying to find a private place where she could relax and pump breast milk.
“After seeking assistance from multiple departments — nutrition, child and family sciences, the health center and human resources — I was basically given a sympathetic smile and directions to the nearest bathroom stall,” Baus said.
She said that trying to produce breast milk in such an environment was extremely unsanitary and embarrassing. In a bathroom, trying to organize all the parts of a breast pump on a toilet may be challenging for some, but Baus said the hardest part was trying to keep everything clean.
Baus eventually found a place in the Thomas Building known as the “quiet room,” where the walls were covered with windows without blinds and a door without a lock.
“Many times a student would walk in on me while I was pumping and their face would be in complete shock,” Baus said.
Since then, blinds have been placed on the windows and a lock has been put on the door. Baus said she knew she had to make a change on the campus so no mothers would have to go through what she experienced.
“No mother should have to give up her desire to be a student or to breast-feed her child,” Baus said.
The Breastfeeding Coalition has gained community support and has teamed up with First Five Fresno as well as the Breastfeeding Task Force. They were able to petition to become a recognized student organization.
Their goal is to have Fresno State follow the footsteps of many other universities, such as George Washington University, and become breast-feeding friendly with more lactation rooms on campus.
So far, Baus’ efforts have led to an outreach within the faculty, and a room in the Child and Family Sciences department that will be converted into a lactation room.
“We have also established a connection with La Leche League of Fresno and will be starting some support group meetings in the near future,” Baus said. “We are also trying to obtain grant money to help convert other rooms on campus into lactation rooms.”
Baus said when she first started the coalition she was hesitant because she thought most college females weren’t focused on becoming parents during their college years.
“I decided to go out on a limb and presented a booth at the Fall Health Fair,” Baus said. “It was surprisingly a great success, and I went forward with my research.”
Baus said her booth at the fair won an award, and it was inspiring because the students voted for it.
Rachel Heinrich, nutrition and dietetics major at Fresno State, said, “Breast-feeding is extremely important. We’ve learned a lot about it from our class, nutrition through the lifecycles, that breast-feeding can reap tremendous benefits. I encourage any mother who is uncertain to look into it.”
Baus said that college women have a potential to become parents during school. She hopes to educate more women about breast-feeding, so if the need arises, they can choose whether to breast-feed their children or not.
She is hoping to expand the coalition and continue to provide resources for all mothers.