Aug. 29, 2013 at 10:15 AM ET
A Vermont airport that was once the site of a “nurse-in” protesting the in-flight treatment of a breastfeeding mom is the first U.S. airport to install a dedicated breastfeeding and pumping station.
The pod-shaped, post-security “Lactation Station” was installed at Burlington International Airport earlier this week and is available to on-the-go mothers starting Thursday. The freestanding kiosk features easy-to-clean surfaces, a fold-down table, a power outlet and space that can comfortably accommodate seating, a breast pump, luggage and a stroller.
The breastfeeding station was designed by Burlington-based Mamava, a company headed by a working mom who used to take a breast pump with her when she traveled.
“I’d end up using the pump in a public bathroom, but I know women who have had to use breast pumps in cars, storage closets and some very unusual places when they travel,” said Mamava co-founder Sascha Mayer.
Mayer started working on the design for the “Lactation Station” at the request of Gene Richards, Burlington International's aviation director, who wants the experience for everyone traveling through the airport to be “as relaxing as possible.”
To that end, the airport opened a pre-security lounge for nursing mothers in May.
“We took out a bank of pay phones that had earned maybe $17 the entire previous year,” said Richards. “Even if it’s only used occasionally, the lounge makes the airport more comfortable for moms.”
Mayer expects the new self-contained, post-security Lactation Station — located near a restroom in a space formerly occupied by an ATM and a flat-penny machine — to be popular among nursing moms because there’s usually no place to comfortably use a breast pump on a plane or on a short layover.
“This allows a nursing mother to go through security and use the station to pump shortly before her flight,” said Mayer. “It’s all about solving a problem.”
While there are plans to bring Mamava Lactation Stations to other airports, for now it’s a one-of-a-kind unit being tested at Burlington International. But moms and family travel experts are already rooting for the kiosk’s success.
“It's not always easy for nursing mothers to find a private and clean place to discreetly breastfeed or use a breast pump. So it would be great to see this catch on at other airports as well as other transportation hubs such as train and bus stations,” said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, managing editor of MiniTime.com.
Dawn Brahos, a mom from Lowell, Ind., agrees. In April, Brahos went national with her experience of feeling “humiliated” when a flight attendant loudly — and incorrectly — forbid her from plugging in a breast pump on an airplane.
“Maybe more women will pump or breastfeed, or do so a bit longer, if changes like these make it easier for women to make this choice,” she said.