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The Pump Room

Judy Vogelhut steps inside the mysterious room on the first floor of Hopkins Hospital.

Pediatrics instructor Genevieve Parsons maintains a hectic schedule. But two to three times a day, she heads to an unmarked door on the first floor of Hopkins Hospital and punches in an access code. Inside the quiet room, she unwinds, pumps breast milk for her baby and trades parenting advice with other nursing moms.

Welcome to the Johns Hopkins “Pump Room,” where as many as 30 employees a month go to pump milk for their babies. The room features six curtained areas, electric breast pumps, a refrigerator and sink as well as a bulletin board full of baby photos, all posted by proud moms.

Employees praise the room for both its function and its networking opportunities. “It’s a total gossip-fest, but instead of talking about people, we talk about our babies or how to increase milk production,” says pathology resident Diana Molavi. The chatter easily slides into other topics high on a new mother’s radar screen: solid foods, day care, readjusting to work and, of course, getting babies to sleep through the night.

“It’s a wonderful place,” says pathology resident Maryam Farinola. “It takes you away from your worries, and you get to do something for your baby even while you’re at work.”

Gretchen Clum, an assistant professor of pediatrics, agrees. Though she started pumping in her private office, she prefers the social atmosphere of the pump room: “You’re with people engaged in the same thing—not just pumping, but adjusting to having a newborn. It’s this little oasis in the day.”

The idea for the pump room grew out of conversations 12 years ago between Judy Vogelhut, a nurse and lactation consultant at Hopkins, and clinical leaders from pediatrics and Gyn/Ob Vogelhut knew how challenging it was for working mothers to breast-feed. When she nursed her own children in the 1970s, she often pumped milk in a clinic bathroom. “Without some kind of resources [for pumping], it’s very difficult. What often happens is that babies get weaned earlier than they should,” she says.

So about 12 years ago, Vogelhut helped establish the pump room. Before moving to its present location, the room was originally on Blalock’s third floor in a tiny room that barely fit five chairs arm-to-arm. By the time it was relocated, the women were so used to the tight quarters that “everyone just pushed the curtains back,” Molavi says.

Social bonds form in the pump room. One group of women got together for monthly lunches long after they’d stopped pumping. They dubbed themselves “The Bosom Buddies.”

—Karen Blum



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