Downtown Employee Seeks Innovative Solution

One of the things I love about reader emails is that I never know what’s on your minds.

I get dozens a day. They range from the usual (entitled parking, sunset photos), to the obscure (“What was the name of that restaurant where …?”), to the unexpected.

The other day, a woman wrote with an issue I’d never thought of. But it’s one at least 50% of “0688o” readers probably have. She says:

I am a local resident and employee in downtown Westport.

I work for a small nonprofit. Our building is full of other small businesses. Our landlord is fantastic. However, this building was not intended for modern working lives. The entire building shares one tiny bathroom. We have no place to expand.

I am a few months pregnant with our first child. I am looking for the right accommodations post-pregnancy: a private, clean place to pump breast milk.

This should not be the way women have to pump at work.

I am sure many other employers on Main Street do not have the right accommodations for pumping either. I can’t be the only future mom working downtown with this issue.

I wonder: Are there shops with pumping facilities that are interested in opening up to other downtown merchants?

This could be for women shopping downtown too — not just working women.

Or maybe Westport could come together to find a merchant (or several) to sponsor sites that would be available to rent, or just use for the general benefit of the community.

This could be an interesting branding and social responsibility opportunity for local businesses — and another way to demonstrate Westport thinks outside the box. It could also be a way to utilize one of our many vacant storefronts.

My husband has worked in Westport for 10 years. We purchased a home and moved here in May.

We have found Westport to be a giving, supportive community. As the town focuses on innovative support for local businesses, this is another issue that needs addressing.

I reached out to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, but they’ve been understandably quite busy with the holiday season.

There you go, “06880” readers. I’m sure you’ll be great at crowd-sourcing ideas. Just click “Comments” below!

(For Connecticut laws regarding breastfeeding, click here.)

25 responses to “Downtown Employee Seeks Innovative Solution

  1. Jane Boyd Broce

    I have lived in Westport for four years and previously in Weston.
    I like this town and I also like your contribution and the sense of caring and community you give.
    Thank you for your efforts and have a happy New Year!

  2. The important problem to solve is how to increase the availability of appropriate accommodations in the downtown area (maybe other areas also) for breast feeding mothers. Let’s brainstorm many ideas. Some ideas that seem a little crazy may spark another idea that would work.

    One step in solving this problem would be to define the criteria for such an accommodation.

    Shall we “group think” to solve this problem?

  3. Is there a room in the library that might work?

  4. I wonder if the Westport Woman’s Club,
    the library, or even the Senior Center
    may have a space that could be used?
    Congratulations, Westport is a great
    place to raise a family!

    • Charles Gottleb

      Brainstorming off of the library idea, what about the town hall? It’s right near the downtown and would be a great municipal move to show Westport values! I bet you could put a pod in there, or a private donor could outfit a room!

  5. The restroom situation as described sounds illegal and inhumane. Contact OSHA. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/osha-laws-restrooms-workplace-1332.html
    Ditto nursing… under Federal law nursing women must be provided with clean, private space.
    https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/nursing-mothers/faq

    • hi there! I’m the voice behind the email – I promise you the restroom is up to code and our office does indeed have space but it would just require me to take over an entire conference room. I know there are so many offices that are strapped for space so trying to find a unique solution that would not be a burden on our local businesses while still trying to accommodate local moms 🙂

      • Hi there. I’m the Director over at Westport Museum. We have an all female staff and most of us are moms. You are welcome to come and use one of our offices or staff room if you like. Not a permanent solution, of course—I agree the need should be more holistically addressed—but we are happy to help out if you need us.

        • Thanks Ramin! I think I will be set for our little office but will definitely keep this in mind! Certainly going to continue the conversation to see what is possible to support Westport as a whole, I really think there is a unique small business support opportunity for the town that could also help fill some of the empty storefronts

  6. We just saw one of these breastfeeding pods in an airport. Take a look at mamava.com for ideas if a space could be found!

  7. Elizabeth Thibault

    I would 1000% look for ways to support any local businesses that work to come to a solution for these working parents. I want to know I support humane and caring businesses. I’m sure that groups here can make this happen!
    Make sure to let us know how this comes together and which businesses sponsor this, so we can show our support too!

  8. How about the library?

  9. Thanks Dan! Great question/issue for our town. I’m a local lactation consultant and happy to help move this idea forward any way I can! LR – let’s talk!

  10. We visited our grandson at Harvard Business School. There were about at least six lactation “booths”/pods lined up along a wall in a wide corridor outside his classroom. It definitely caught my eye!

  11. Coincidence that the women of the NY city PD are, at this very time, seeking the same improvement in and availability of “pumping rooms”.??????????

  12. Jennifer Haviland

    I agree this is an issue in need of a more permanent solution. However in the meantime, I have a dressing room with a bathroom next to it, very private, at POP’TART Gallery at 1 Main Street. I would happily lend it for anyone in need of pumping. The gallery is open Thursday – Sunday 12-6. Whatever I can do to help, please contact Jennifer at 914 980 8618

    • I love it! I’m certainly going to keep pursuing a more town-wide solution but wonder if there is an opportunity to put a sticker in some storefront windows for businesses that have back-up space for women to come in if totally necessary? Kinda like the “Dogs Welcome” stickers I sometimes see 🙂

  13. Hello Dan and Engaged Members of the Westport Community…

    When I read this thread I couldn’t help but reach out with gratitude and enthusiasm. I am the Owner/Director of Westport’s Academy of Dance – a Westport institution that has served children and teens in the surrounding community for 44 years, the place where I spent my childhood and where I have been fortunate to bond with the most amazing parents in our community. And as of last month I’m also a new mom, now seeing parenting through a whole new lens – including the challenges of balancing my own career passions with motherhood! In short, this is an endeavor we are compelled to rally behind. To start we have a private, stand- alone studio location on the Post Road where during certain times (including typical lunch hours) we could dedicate space for moms… this could evolve into various means of support and camaraderie. This is what makes our community so amazing. I’m going to share this thread with my team and network of engaged parents and in the meantime welcome thoughts and suggestions at nancy@westportdance.com.

    Thank you LR for raising this important topic and for all that replied with such genuine concern and innovative ideas – again, what makes our town so special.

    Looking forward,

    Nancy Hyland-Zindell
    Director, Westport’s Academy of Dance
    http://westportdance.com

    • Thank YOU Nancy for your enthusiasm! I agree, this sense of community and support is what drew us to Westport. I’m going to send you a note offline for a little brainstorming.

  14. What about a spot in Town Hall? Worth asking about? Westport Hist Society? A private room at the library?

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