NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has been steadily working toward becoming a better place for working mothers and all women by hosting educational lectures on breast health and winning the Silver Rating for Nursing Mother-Friendly Workplace. However, brought further gains for NNSY’s nursing mothers with the arrival of a new nursing pod in the Bldg. 298 break room. According to Facilities Support Branch’s (Code 985) Facilities Engineer Caleb Steckmann, the pod is a “prefabricated space that is delivered on a pallet and can be assembled anywhere that has an open area large enough for the pod to be built in. It is a secure, clean, bright, and a welcoming space for mothers.”
The idea to install a pod was first presented in an open forum hosted by the Federal Women’s Program (FWP) and Code 985 for pregnant and nursing mothers employed at the shipyard. From there, the facilities engineer put in a request to his management in Sept. 2020, with the pod components picked up this past February.
Steckmann worked with his team—Temporary Form One (TF-1) Program Manager Bobby Truitt, Facilities Support Engineer Mystique Owens, and Facilities Operations Specialist Shane Hurley - to assemble the pod and was grateful for their help. “Although there was some difficulty assembling and moving it, we had plenty of support, so we were able to get the job done,” he said. “I would not have been able to do this without my team.”
Not only is the pod the first of its kind in the shipyard, it is also a trial for future nursing stations. “We would like to see how well it is received, how often it is used, if the women like it, and if there are other places that could use one,” Steckmann explained.
Steckmann said that this initiative is also a part of a continued effort to make America’s Shipyard friendlier for working mothers. “With the help of the FWP, we hope to continue to renovate existing space, build new ones, and continue to come up with ideas to support the nursing mothers at the shipyard,” he said.
The pod has a few more additions to be done, but should be opening soon and will be announced on NNSY social media platforms. Aligned with laws on office lactation spaces and the other existing nursing rooms in NNSY, the pod will be passcode protected to preserve cleanliness and control the amount of traffic going in and out of the pod at one time. “To keep it private, FWP, the building monitor, and Code 985 will have the code,” FWP Waterfront Ombudsman Michelle Johnson added. The specific points of contact to retrieve the code has yet to be announced.
This pod not only marks the beginning of expanded lactation spaces, but another milestone in NNSY changing for the better. “From what I understand, a new mother who breastfeeds needs express milk two to three times every eight hours,” Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Tarane Parker added. “Having lactation spaces not only alleviates some of the stressors that come with being a working and nursing mom, but also sends the message that we as an organization are inclusive and care about the well-being and needs of mothers and children.”