New Breastfeeding-Friendly Space Enhances Sense of Belonging for Student Parents 

April 23, 2024

An image of Trent community members cutting the ribbon

New space at Otonabee College offers privacy, soft lighting, children’s books, and a nearby fridge for storing pumped milk

A new breastfeeding-friendly space at Otonabee College, generously supported by philanthropy, offers parents a friendly, private, and comfortable space where they can breastfeed their children on a rocking chair under soft lighting and store pumped milk in a nearby fridge.

“This wonderful new space is the first of many on campus,” says Dr. Michele McIntosh RN, associate professor in the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing (TFSON).

President Leo Groarke recently attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the space, which also offers a shelf of children’s books and a change table, and handed out teddy bears to some of the new parents in attendance.

The initiative is funded by Best Start, through the Ontario Ministry of Health, and furnished through philanthropic support from Trent School of Business Professor Lisa Ruston and her husband Richard.

“We are thrilled to support this lovely space to enhance a sense of belonging for students who are breastfeeding,” Prof. Ruston says.

 Trent is a leader in making Ontario’s campuses more friendly to breastfeeding. TFSON launched the Breastfeeding Friendly Campus Initiative (BFCI) in 2015 in partnership with Peterborough County City Public Health Unit and La Leche League. BFCI fosters collaboration amongst post-secondary institutions to increase awareness of the Ontario Human Rights Code that protects breastfeeding parents' rights to be accommodated on campus. BCFI also shares best-practice strategies and tools for enacting these strategies.

BFCI has led various projects over the years including hosting a Canadian conference featuring a representative for the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, establishing social accounts, developing the website, and presenting research at the National Association of Perinatal Nurses. BFCI was showcased at the Ministry of Health Best Start annual conference and has inspired other schools to undertake research and establish their own spaces.

When the time was right for Trent to open its own space, Trent Nursing students surveilled university policies across Canada, worked on a version for Trent, and submitted the plan to the Equity and Human Rights Office. Fourth-year Community Health Nursing placement students then initiated the Trent project details and, with the help of Otonabee College, the room is now open to all parents who are nursing children including mothers, non-binary parents, and transgender men.

Looking ahead, Prof. McIntosh says Trent University Durham GTA and other Trent colleges have indicated interest in setting up their own breastfeeding-friendly spaces.

“Students choose Trent University because of their deep desire to participate in and lead momentous change,” Prof. McIntosh says. “Our Nursing students continue to be influential drivers of healthcare policy change and now students who are breastfeeding parents face fewer barriers to completing their education and following their dreams.”

Learn more about supporting the School of Nursing at Trent University.