General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee will be the first airport in the nation to unveil mamava, a free-standing pod for breastfeeding and pumping mothers. The pod provides benches, a fold down table, a USB port, power outlet, soft lighting, space for a stroller or luggage, lock and a mirror.
As with all things parenting and all things breastfeeding the reaction on the internet was swift. Some mothers are hailing it as a long overdue accommodation for breastfeeding mothers and others are viewing it at a way to shame and seclude breastfeeding women. So which is it?
Personally, having spent a total of 4 years (and more to go) as a breastfeeding mom I have no problem breastfeeding in public. I’m not a fan of doing it squished up against a stranger in an airport, but a baby’s gotta eat (and preferably, not scream). My immediate reaction was “why not breastfeed where ever you already are?” But then, I took a moment and went back to month 1, 2, and 3 of breastfeeding. I wasn’t as confident as I am now, we didn’t have the hang of it, and breastfeeding in public was difficult because it was just such a clumsy process. Or, when I was pumping, which I already hated and had no interest in feeling like a Holstein in front of my husband let alone an airport full of strangers. Or when I had a baby who was easily distracted and breastfeeding in public was beyond frustrating because of all the things the baby would rather look at.
In the United States, just over 79% of women start breastfeeding, but by 3 months, only 40% of women have continued to exclusively breastfeed according to the CDC. Anyone who’s breastfed before can tell you those first three months are the hardest. I realized, this accommodation isn’t for me, and if you’re ok breastfeeding in public then it isn’t for you either.
It’s for the nursing and pumping mothers aren’t as comfortable in public than those of us who have the hang of it. It’s for you and me pre-confidence, and 79% of other women who are just trying to do what’s best for their baby and need all the help they can get. These are the women who need our support, and I applaud MKE for keeping these new moms in mind.
Of course, there is the flip side. If this space turns onto another way in which we isolate mothers “Excuse me lady, there’s a pod in Concourse C for that.” It’s a whole different story.
An airport has taken initiative to make this space for nursing and pumping moms. Coupled with breastfeeding laws and support from the public, this small change can help mothers quite a bit. But, it’s up to us an our attitude to make it a positive (or negative) thing.