Lactation space design: supporting evidence-based practice and the baby-friendly hospital initiative

HERD. Spring 2011;4(3):101-9. doi: 10.1177/193758671100400308.


The design of spaces where lactation occurs within a healthcare facility often lacks careful attention to the environmental requirements of breastfeeding. Although numerous studies evoke overwhelming support for lactation initiation in hospitals, few designers may understand the importance of such spaces. Furthermore, many designers may be unaware of the contributions they may make to this initiative. Countless studies that support the philosophy that breast milk is the best nutritional option for babies have been conducted. There are many health and economic advantages of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, and communities. Research suggests that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life reduces the rate of illness throughout infancy and beyond, saves lives, and could save billions of dollars in the United States each year.The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program established to promote within healthcare facilities the facilitation of breastfeeding infants from birth. Results of this initiative show a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in many countries. The intuitive design response to such favorable research is to enhance the lactation environment, assuming that mothers who feel comfortable in lactation spaces will use them more frequently, which promotes lactation in healthcare facilities. Considering the numerous research-supported advantages of breastfeeding, designers would be prudent to seek and apply knowledge of the environmental needs to the design of lactation spaces. This may be achieved by becoming familiar with lactation procedures to understand the circulation, adjacencies, and spatial requirements of lactation programs. Incorporating this information into the design may allow the development of ideal spaces that facilitate lactation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Facility Environment*
  • Health Promotion / economics
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Hospital Design and Construction
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Lactation / psychology*
  • Nurseries, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Nurseries, Hospital / standards