OPINION: Breastfeeding spaces at Ryerson

Breastfeeding parents are left with little support at Ryerson. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

How hard is it to find a place to breastfeed at Ryerson? Surprisingly, pretty hard. Even getting a straight answer from faculty and staff was nearly impossible.

And some campus staff don’t know that breastfeeding spaces exist.

After a day of trying to find breastfeeding spaces for student-parents, both designated and not, I found that spaces that were supposed to be available weren’t and I’d have to wait hours for the others.

I started looking for breastfeeding spaces on Ryerson’s campus nearly three weeks ago. Luckily, I didn’t have to lug a hungry child around with me when I did so. Tanya De Mello, director of human rights at Ryerson, said that Ryerson does in fact have a designated breastfeeding room, complete with a fridge to store pumped milk.

The room is in the Student Campus Centre, SCC 210A.

I went to check out the breastfeeding space. The door was locked and no one answered when I knocked.

On the way out of the building, I stopped at the front desk and asked where I could find a designated breastfeeding room in the building. I was told there was no such thing.

Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi doesn’t seem to know about it either. When asked about breastfeeding spaces, he listed off a few quiet areas, but didn’t mention the room in the Student Campus Centre.

So, where can you go when you need a quiet place to breastfeed?

The library offers bookable rooms, but when I tried to book one, the nearest available time was five hours away. No baby can wait that long to be fed.

The library also offers silent and quiet study areas ranging from floors four to 10, but they’re not as private as a personal room. There’s also no talking or whispering allowed, which could complicate things if your baby’s feeling cranky.

If you’re a grad student, the SLC offers quiet study rooms accessible with your OneCard. They also offer bookable rooms, but similar to the library, the next available time was eight hours away.

The Real Institute’s new headquarters offers quiet spaces for breastfeeding, but it’s in College Park, on Yonge Street, a 10-minute walk from campus.

The Ted Rogers building offers bookable rooms, but I couldn’t even log on to their website to book them.

Despite all that, there’s some good news on the horizon. The new Daphne Cockwell Complex, currently being built on Church Street, will feature one designated breastfeeding space in the midwifery department, open to all Ryerson students. The building is set to be completed in 2018.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, breastfeeding parents have been known to get creative when feeding their babies. With the trouble I went through to find a spot, it’s no surprise why.

Ryerson needs to put together a comprehensive list of private and quiet areas for breastfeeding, whether designated or not. De Mello is hoping to put together a list and map of spaces where Ryerson students can breastfeed their children or pump milk.

I know, I know, breasts are scary and we’re still tempted to look over our shoulder before we quietly whisper “breasts.” But it’s no reason to make parents go to such great lengths to find a space to feed their child. 

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