Great news for 8 in 10 new mothers in the United States breastfeed their babies (CDC, 2016): Breastfeeding or pumping at the airports is getting easier!
The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill signed recently includes the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, which requires all large and medium hub airports to provide a private, non-bathroom space in each terminal for mothers to express breast milk.
That means that while some airports, including two airports near us: San Diego International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, already have dedicated lactation spaces, more will get them in the coming months. Some are getting lactation rooms, others are building so-called breastfeeding pods, which are mobile suites where women can breastfeed.
With my first hand experience, I believe these lactation rooms and pods are coming in handy. As a journalist, a U.S. correspondent for a Chinese magazine, not only I spend a lot of time traveling around the country for work, I also fly a lot from my home in San Diego to my company’s headquarter in Taipei. When I had a little baby, I cut my trips as short as possible when traveling. So it would have been nice if I were able to pump when waiting at the gate.
But when I gave birth to my first child back in 2013, the lactation rooms or pods were not common in airports. I have pumped for my first baby in the airport bathrooms in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio and a few others. Those were, actually, not the bad cases. The worse, I have walked around the airports just for a bathroom with an electrical outlet, thus almost missed my flight. The worst, I have skipped a pump session altogether due to the lack of a proper space to pump, which negatively affected my milk supply.
By the time I had my second child last year, I’ve decided that the best way to pack like a pro when breastfeeding is to take your baby. You can breastfeed openly when waiting at the gate, but you really need a private, sanitary place to pump. I have breastfed my second baby in many airports. Some of them have breastfeeding rooms, some don’t. Sometimes I don’t even bother to find out—I just feed my baby at the gate because he got so impatient that he didn’t want wait for mommy to find the breastfeeding room. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever seen a “hangry” baby, angry because hungry. But, still, I have used the breastfeeding room in San Diego International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport and Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. I truly appreciate the space dedicated to nursing mothers.
With that said, I applaud airport lactation accommodation provisions in FAA Reauthorization. I hope these lactation rooms and pods will help transform the culture of breastfeeding by providing an easily accessible space for moms to nurse or pump in private, cleanliness and comfort.