Earlier this year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson proclaimed March 28 Breastfeeding Awareness Day in Arkansas. Though the state continues to rank low when it comes to the percentage of mothers who breastfeed, there are efforts being made to increase this figure by offering support to new mothers.

“‘How do I breastfeed in public?’ is a question I often hear from breastfeeding mothers," said Tanya Smith, a board certified lactation consultant and owner of Serenity Breastfeeding Support. "As a lactation consultant, my job is to offer ideas to help make this easier."

Although it is not illegal to breastfeed in public in Arkansas, many mothers prefer a more private setting. And mothers who need to pump when they are away from their nursing babies face different challenges.

“There are plenty of reasons a mother might choose to use a lactation room instead of nursing publicly,” Smith said. “Lactation rooms can be very helpful for a mother who does not yet feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. Sometimes an older baby is easily distracted in a place like a mall with so much to see and hear. For this mother, the lactation room is the perfect distraction-free place to feed her baby. The mother with multiple children may find the lactation room a great place to breastfeed and keep her older children safely contained while she feeds her baby.”

Legally, employers in Arkansas are required to provide a space for pumping other than a bathroom. But this doesn’t solve the problem for nursing mothers who may have to travel for client meetings, and are not otherwise glued to their office all day.

“Lactation rooms and portable lactation pods are increasingly more common at airports for breastfeeding women who exclusively pump or are traveling without the baby,” Smith said. 

Whether it’s called a nursing room, breastfeeding room, lactation station or lactation room, these dedicated private rooms that are shielded from view and interruption from the public are available in central Arkansas for nursing mothers to express breast milk by breastfeeding or breast pumping.

1. Babies R Us: This Little Rock retailer provides a dedicated and private room for moms nursing their babies while away from home. This nursing mothers room has comfortable seating, a diaper trashcan, diaper changing station, and a wall outlet to connect electric breastpump for breastmilk expression.

2. Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport: Currently, the airport offers a private room for nursing that is located near baggage carousel 1. Says Shane Carter, director of public affairs and governmental relations, “Later this year, we plan to add a nursing room in the concourse, near gate 3. This private space will include seating, a sink, a table and access to an electrical outlet. Conveniently located post-security, this comfortable area will allow mothers to nurse closer to their gate area.”

3. McCain Mall: The North Little Rock mall provides a nursing mothers lounge located next to Sears.

4. Museum of Discovery: Room to Grow is the gallery for children ages 6 and under. The space includes paleontology, veterinarian, construction, art and imaginative play areas. There is also a space for toddlers and a private room for nursing mothers.

5. Outlets of Little Rock: Families with small children and nursing mothers may use the Family Room located in the Food Pavilion, across from the public restrooms.

6. University of Central Arkansas: Aware of the various audiences they serve, UCA recently appointed a Lactation Station Committee headed by Dr. Angela Webster, associate vice president for Institutional Diversity, which conducted focus groups with participants representing those interests.

The overwhelming majority indicated a severe need on the UCA campus to provide a private and comfortable space other than a restroom for mothers to express breast milk while on campus.

UCA now offers five lactation suites throughout campus that provide comfortable seating, electrical outlets for pumping devices, mini-refrigerator, magazines, a sink, a microwave, adjustable lighting and housekeeping supplies.

“Affording beautiful spaces for mothers to nurse or pump assists students in continuing their education and allows guests to enjoy their campus visit while maintaining their commitment to the healthy choice of nursing,” said Webster.