More nursing rooms for moms arrive at US airports

Lean Into Aviation (3)While most all airports now have baby diaper changing tables in the restrooms – including in some men’s rooms – appropriate spaces where nursing moms in transit can breastfeed their babies or pump milk are not yet universal.

But thanks to a well-designed product, legislative actions and the desire of airports to be inclusive with improvements to the guest experience, the lack of adequate accommodations for nursing moms is being addressed at an increasing number of airports.

So many, in fact, that we can now safely call the presence of lactation rooms in US airports a trend.

In early May, for example, both Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS) and San Antonio International (SAT) celebrated Mother’s Day with ribbon cutting ceremonies marking the opening of new nursing stations for breastfeeding moms.

In Austin, the nursing station by Gate 7 (across from the Austin International Sister Cities Exhibit) was installed “to give traveling mothers privacy and to create a pleasant place for pumping and breastfeeding”, the airport said in a statement.

San Antonio International Airport, which already had one pre-security nursing room, added two post-security nursing spaces that SAT aviation director Tom Jones described as a “much-desired amenity for traveling families” being added “just in time for the busy travel season”.

Both AUS and SAT purchased freestanding nursing “suites” made by Vermont-based Mamava, which installed its first test nursing station in 2013 at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport.

Each 32-square-foot unit (an ADA compatible model is a big larger) has a locking door, an AC and USB power outlet, a fold down table, and two benches. The space inside each movable unit is large enough, says Mamava to “comfortably fit a mom, her luggage, her additional children, her partner, and/or her stroller”.

Mamava’s suites have proved so popular that there are now 26 of them installed in 13 US airports, including Oakland Int’l, Jacksonville International, Palm Beach Airport, Boise Airport , Newark Airport (Terminals A and B,)  JFK JetBlue (T5), LaGuardia Airport, Spokane International Airport, Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport and Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which installed four post-security lactation pods (near gates T-7, B-5, D-34, and F-5), last February.

More lactation “pods” are in the pipeline, but plenty of site-specific nursing rooms at airports are popping up as well.

Bradley International Airport, in Connecticut, opened a post-security nursing room with comfortable seating, a sink, a fold-down changing table and a power outlet, in January 2016.

In April 2016, Portland International Airport opened two post-security lactations rooms, each decorated with soothing colors, lighting and artwork and equipped with counter space, a sink, electrical outlets and a task chair.

The airport knew it wanted to add the amenity and “seized the opportunity” to build them as part of a security exit lane project, Vince Granato, the chief operating officer at the Port of Portland said in a statement announcing the opening of the rooms to the public.

Elsewhere, moms will find both nursing rooms and specially-designed lactation centers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, eight nursing rooms throughout Washington’s Dulles International Airport (four pre-security; four post-security), three at Reagan National Airport, four Mother’s Rooms at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and one in Midway Airport.

The list of airports with special spaces designed for and set aside for nursing moms also includes San Diego International Airport, Love Field in Dallas, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and many others.

And while not yet universal, the good news is that special lactation and/or nursing spaces in airports are definitely now far more commonplace than they were in 2014 when a survey of 100 airports tried to determine which airports offered the minimum requirements for a breast-pumping mother: a private space other than a bathroom, with chair, table, and electrical outlet.

While 62 airports reported being “breastfeeding friendly”, the survey found that, in fact, 25 airports were incorrectly counting unisex/family restrooms as legal lactation spaces and only 8 airports actually met the minimum requirements.

Since then, both Illinois and California have passed laws requiring large airports in those states to provide lactation rooms that are separate from public restrooms. And, in April, 2016, the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration passed by the US Senate included a provision requiring major airports to provide lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers within two years.

That’s good news for airport lactation room advocates, of course, but the bill still has to get signed by the House and then the President before it becomes law.

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