Philadelphia International Airport to offer breast-feeding rooms

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Staci Ross works at the Minute Suites micro-hotel, which is offering the breast-feeding rooms. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)

In response to requests from traveling mothers, Philadelphia International Airport and Minute Suites, a micro-hotel inside security and near the airline gates, are making private rooms available to mothers to breast-feed or pump breast milk between flights.

Minute Suites opened at the airport in spring 2011 between Terminal A and Concourse B, with 13 private rooms for passengers to nap, relax, or work.

The rooms, seven feet by eight feet, will be free to nursing mothers for the first 30 minutes, and cost $14 for an additional half-hour.

Minute Suites cofounder and CEO Daniel Solomon said he was asked by MarketPlace Philadelphia, which manages the airport retail concessions, and the city Division of Aviation if he would offer the space for nursing mothers.

The mini-rooms have a daybed sofa, TV, work station, sound suppression system, temperature controls, and free Internet, but no bathroom. The nearest public restrooms are a few dozen paces away across the airport corridor.

"I said, 'Absolutely,' " Solomon recalled. "Our mission as a company is to create private spaces in public places that improve people's lives. Most of our guests are the weary traveler, and they just want to sleep, especially the international traveler."

Solomon will join Philadelphia airport CEO Mark Gale and Lisa Broderick-Cohen, a lactation consultant and La Leche League leader, Friday morning at the airport to unveil the new mothers' nursing station.

"For a mother who's working and traveling for work, I think these rooms are fabulous," said Broderick-Cohen, whose website is blissedoutmamas.com. "But breast-feeding moms should be able to plop down wherever there is a chair, and feel fine and not shy about breast-feeding in public. "

Diane L. Spatz, director of lactation at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said having "a clean and private space that is not a bathroom is an exciting opportunity for Philadelphia and for mothers. It's particularly important for the moms who have to express milk if they are separated from their child.

"Presently, the only opportunity was for mothers to go into a toilet and pump, or find a bathroom where they could pump for their baby," she said.

Spatz, who teaches, does research, and has a clinical practice, said many women encounter "really challenging experiences when they travel for work, and are not able to have a sanitary place to express milk for their child at home."

"At CHOP, over 50 percent of our mothers come from more than 100 miles away, so many of our families fly here to have their babies cared for at CHOP," she said. "Sometimes our mothers are in a situation where they have to fly back home, and their baby may not be well enough to directly breast feed at the breast, so they need to be able to express milk."

Spatz said the "ideal" would be a space for nursing mothers in each terminal, "but to have some time and space available is really an exciting step forward."

The airport periodically gets e-mails from traveling mothers asking if there are facilities where they may use a breast pump.

In a survey of the 100 busiest U.S. airports, 37 reported having designated lactation rooms. Of those, 25 considered the unisex family or ladies bathroom to be their lactation room, according to a study published in October in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.

Only eight airports offered private rooms other than bathrooms that had a table, electrical outlet, and chair, authors Michael Haight and Joan Ortiz said. Sixty-two of the airports reported being "breast-feeding friendly."

Airports are beginning to catch on. A Burlington, Vt., company, Mamava, makes four- by eight-foot freestanding pods for breast-feeding mothers. The pods are now in terminals at Burlington International and Milwaukee International airports.

Also, lactation pods were opened Thursday in New York-area airports - one at the JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, two at Newark Liberty International, and one at LaGuardia Airport.

"We are in conversations to bring many more to the New York metro airports," Mamava CEO Sascha Mayer said, noting that the firm will deliver two pods next week to Children's.

 


lloyd@phillynews.com

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