Pumping and breastfeeding while traveling can be a bleak experience. But moms who use the lactation pod at LaGuardia Airport's Concourse D can look forward to a little pick-me-up.
Moms who use the Mamava pod have been leaving encouraging Post-It notes for each other, and the project has picked up momentum.
It was all thought up by Grace Stevens, a mom who works as a community relations associate at LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the operator and developer of Terminal B.
Shortly after returning from her maternity leave in January, Stevens wrote a few notes for other pumping and breastfeeding women to see, then left them in the pod along with some blank Post-Its and writing supplies.
“I didn’t plan any of this; I wanted it to be a personal thing mom to mom,” Stevens, who lives in Astoria, Queens, told TODAY Parents. “It started with a couple of Post-Its and has taken off from there.”
“For traveling mamas, feeling the love at Concourse D in LaGuardia Terminal B’s Mamava pod,” Stevens wrote on Sept. 26 to her “Working Astoria Moms” Facebook group, along with photos she shared of a collage of Post-It notes on the walls.
Stevens was inspired after noticing other messages of positivity left by fellow moms in lactation pods she used as she traveled for work. She sought to do the same at her home base — and now the Mamava pod is plastered with approximately 100 notes.
Mamava is the lactation room startup founded by entrepreneurs and moms Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson in 2013. The freestanding pods and their partnering app give moms privacy and cleanliness to pump or nurse in public spaces. According to Mayer, there are over 1,000 Mamava pods across 48 states in places like hospitals, corporate offices and airports.
“We love it because it’s something you’re doing that’s private and may feel isolating since you have to step away from work or be away from your baby if you’re pumping,” Mayer said about Stevens’ initiative. “My main thing is that it recognizes women work in airports too. It’s hard enough to travel, but to navigate working in that environment proves that moms can do anything.”
If you don't have a pad or paper handy but you'd like to support other moms, Mamava's app has a digital note function.
In whatever way they're delivered, the kind words make a difference. They did for Stevens, who has a 1-year-old daughter.
“This initiative and encouragement of the notes helped me fulfill my goal to nurse for as long as possible,” she said. “To see other moms have this resonate as much unprompted, it truly comes from their hearts to support other moms.”
Part of LaGuardia Gateway Partners’ future plans for Terminal B's redevelopment includes cultivating more spaces for breastfeeding or pumping moms.
“We’re in the midst of a complete rebuild of LaGuardia Airport. Adding new amenities to improve customer experience for diverse groups such as nursing mothers and making our airports family friendly are top priorities,” Port Authority Director Rick Cotton said in a statement. He added that 28 Mamava pods have been added to the New York and New Jersey airports, with several at LaGuardia.
Until then, Stevens has made it a point to alert all traveling moms of the Mamava space.
“When I was trying to navigate this on my own for the first time, I definitely needed these words of inspiration to get through it,” she said. “It means so much to be able to help people and pay it forward.”