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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

A New Lactation Station Helps Moms On The Go

Annie Russell / VPR

The Center for Disease Control issues a Breast Feeding Report Card every year. The 2013 report shows that breast feeding is on the rise.  Over seventy five percent of American mothers breastfeed their infants to start. In Vermont, it’s even higher than that, at eighty four percent.

But there’s a sharp drop in breast feeding after about three months. A lot of times, that’s when women head back to work.

Christine Dodson is a co-founder of Mamava, the company that manufactured the first lactation station- it’s a booth specifically designed for nursing mothers- now up-and-running at the Burlington airport.

Dodson remembers what it was like to come back from maternity leave with her first child.

“I hadn’t gotten into a rhythm of when I needed to pump. And I was sitting in a meeting with a client, and lots of people at this conference table. I realized the front of my shirt was getting wet because I was leaking,” says Dodson.

“Pumping” is an aspect of breastfeeding that doesn’t get talked about much. It’s a task that requires a kit- complete with a suction cup and sometimes an electrical cord. For working moms, it’s essential.

But it can take about 20 minutes, and it’s something even a proud nursing mother may want a little privacy for. Sascha Mayer, the other co-founder of Mamava says pumping was the inspiration for the station.

“Pumping is something you probably don’t want to do in public. It’s a very mechanical, exposed process,” says Mayer.

When Mayer was a new mom, her job required her to travel quite a bit. It would have been convenient to have a space in the airport to pump breast milk.

Now, there is. It’s a private booth, right in the main terminal across from one of the Skinny Pancake outposts. It’s a quiet space with a door that locks, but more importantly it’s a designated space for nursing moms.

That means nobody pounding on the door, like in a high-traffic bathroom.

For Cassie Lindsay, a Burlington mom here at the airport to check the station out, the pod gets rave reviews. And Lindsay says the quiet helps to get the juices flowing.

“To be able to sit down, put your feet up, close your eyes and relax, you actually produce a lot more milk a lot more quickly,” says Lindsay.

The privacy aspect isn’t important to all nursing moms. In fact it is legal to breastfeed (or pump for that matter) right out in the open in Vermont. Mamava also has a dedicated nursing lounge at the airport for that purpose.

The design of the space was important, too. Michael Jagger worked on the project. He says everything about the space, from the lighting to the colors scheme is intended to make new moms feel comfortable.

“It has a cleanliness and a modern quality about it that you just know is clean and safe and efficient. Also the shape and the form has mother-like quality. Its design, the form itself should express a certain element of optimism,” says Jagger.

The space is, in fact, warm and inviting. But don’t try to sneak in to catch a pre-flight nap or charge your cell phone.  Airport security will be monitoring the station to make sure it’s being used properly.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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