If you're a parent who breastfeeds, then you know how difficult it can be to feed your child in public. Aside from the social stigma that can be attached to breastfeeding in public, there's also a lack of adequate public spaces for parents to nourish their kids, especially in major metropolitan areas. The good news is, New York City just launched an important initiative to support breastfeeding parents. The new program aims to provide clean, comfortable, and safe public spaces for breastfeeding parents, and it could do immeasurable good for breastfeeding awareness.
On Wednesday, New York City officials unveiled five public "lactation pods" in each of the the city's five boroughs. The mobile 4 by 8 feet pods, which cost $20,000 each, feature "comfortable benches, a table, an electrical outlet for plugging in breast pumps and a door that can be locked for privacy," according to NBC New York. The lactation pods can be found at Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, Harlem Hospital Center, the Bronx Zoo, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. City officials chose these neighborhoods because they had the lowest breastfeeding rates, and the parents in these communities needed the most support.
New York City officials designed the pods in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio's sweeping efforts to promote and destigmatize breastfeeding. In August 2016, de Blasio signed legislation mandating the creation of lactation rooms in select New York City offices and service centers. The bill was a major step forward for breastfeeding parents in New York City, and it looks like de Blasio delivered on his promises.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, according to an NYC.gov release:
Breastfeeding is the most complete and natural form of nutrition for babies, and it also provides health benefits for new mothers. We are fortunate to live in a city that protects a mother’s right to breastfeed anywhere, anytime. We’re happy to provide a comfortable option for women who prefer to breastfeed or pump in a private space.
Although breastfeeding isn't the right decision for every parent, parents that do breastfeed deserve the upmost respect and support when they're nursing in public. By creating these lactation pods, New York City officials are sending the message that breastfeeding in public is a right and a not a privilege. Considering new parents are overwhelmed as it is, this kind of support from the government is incredibly meaningful.
As for how nursing parents are liking the pods, new mom Chana Dawkins-Mason said, according to DNA Info:
It was comfortable. It was cozy. There were also images of breastfeeding mothers, which was encouraging. If you feel a little nervous you look around and the idea’s reinforced: Breastfeed the baby, it’s OK.
Although America still has a long way to go to destigmatize public breastfeeding, New York City has set an important precedent for other cities across the country. Nursing parents should feel comfortable and safe when they breastfeed in public, and lactation pods make this possible.