Breastfeeding accommodation, at a basic level, says the same thing to a woman as it does to a man –that women matter and breastfeeding matters.
For one Midwest community, the question was asked if the public place where moms with newborns congregate and visit in the greatest numbers, a place which is not work or business related so is not covered by related current law, is “Mom-Friendly?” That place being, in most communities, the city arena or conference center. For those who consider themselves breastfeeding advocates, this effort will be of high interest. The World Health Organization (WHO) and much of the maternity and lactation community have put their endorsement, energy, and marketing support behind breastfeeding. At the same time, there has been little acknowledgement or fanfare of the enormous logistical considerations for breastfeeding beyond the other infant needs during the first year after a birth.
Within the Maternity Ecosystem, this moment offers a great window of opportunity for breastfeeding advocates and the moms who will weigh in with their decisions on whether or not to breastfeed and for how long. The ultimate question I’d like to be answered for the responsible leader or group, most often the City Council, for each civic arena across the nation: “Do you consider our arena as currently equipped to be Mom-Friendly?” An honest answer will lead to change eventually in a majority of communities nationwide but first someone, a resident citizen, needs to ask this question in each individual community.
This is a Call-To-Action for champions willing to attend local city council meetings, and given the opportunity, to ask this meaningful question and begin the discussion. There is enormous competition for our attention and in the media and often in our personal lives, yet many act like it is business as usual for the rearing of children but from the first day it isn’t. As a result from a non-scientific survey of three dozen pregnant women and new moms over the past year, they suggested a desire to establish a new normal after the birth of a child. Some conversations mentioned being separated from their past social experiences and simply the desire to “get out” and “feel normal” after delivering a new baby and a nine month focus on pregnancy and the physical and emotional event of childbirth. While the opportunities for each person will vary by their situation and location, most had stories to share about public venues where they had chosen to go and had a difficult experience -such as airports and arenas-interestingly many were stories from travels. A lactation station in the local public arena is one small step to answering that need especially if we as a community and a society are going to promote breastfeeding. -Or not.
In Lincoln, Nebraska a request by our city council to create a Lactation Accommodation was the response to the question about our arena being “Mom-Friendly” . The council referred the matter onto the Joint Public Agency who had direct fiscal oversight of the new $180 Million arena. One of the members of that agency is also the current city mayor. Ultimately, they were confronted with the current policy of sending pumping or breastfeeding moms to the family bathroom or the semiprivate aid station which were not judged to be great alternatives. The most common response from moms in the non-scientific survey, as part of this effort, in asking how they felt about breastfeeding in the family bathroom was: “Yuk!”
Ultimately, the Joint Public Agency and the city of Lincoln responded with the purchase of a commercial lactation kiosk from a Vermont company, Mamava. The kiosk was christened: “The Nursing Nook.”
Currently, breastfeeding accommodation in the public non-work setting is not a matter of law. The response of our Joint Public Agency which consisted of three men between 40 and 65 was direct and favorable but some might consider modest but in light of virtually no data reflecting demand or usage, it was a reasonable decision. It is likely that an arena that might hold up to 14,000 people and will have several events each year, including Disney on Ice and University Women’s Basketball games, both popular with women with young babies, should likely have four or five separate accommodations of some sort either fixed or free-standing. Today, there are no metrics and there don’t appear to be any social scientists studying this need. It is also certain that in each community across the nation, and for each arena, someone must ask the question before the first accommodation will be created either by renovation or purchase.