SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - A Burlington company has opened its firstbreast-feeding and pumping station at Burlington International Airport,hoping to replicate the experience at airports and workplaces across thecountry.
Mamava co-founders Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodsonhave dealt with the difficulties of trying to breast-feed their babiesand travel, both for work and recreation. Mayer remembers trying to use abreast pump in an airport bathroom, not a pleasant experience.
"Alot of people breast-feed in the public. We totally welcome that if youhave that comfort level," said Gene Richards, Burlington InternationalAirport's director of aviation who paved the way for the lactationstation here. "But for people who want privacy, we want to make surethey have a place to do it."
The Mamava, Spanish for "Mamagoes," offers security, privacy and a clean, well-lit space outfitted inCorian, the same solid surface used for countertops and foodpreparation. And it is located after the security lines, on the secondfloor near Gates 1 to 8 in a spot that used to have pay phones.
Thecolors are bright and cheerful with two facing benches in white Corianand a fold-down table between them. An outlet to power breast pumps isbelow the table. The curved ceiling and recessed lighting give a senseof spaciousness, even though the enclosed area takes up only about 20square feet, Richards said.
"Everything in there is meant to beused and cleaned," said John Abrahamsen, a designer and project managerfor G3K in Springfield, Vt., which is manufacturing the Mamava.
Useof the pod is free. At the Burlington airport, Zutano, a children'sclothing manufacturer in Cabot, Vt., is sponsoring the location.
"Wefeel like this is such an important piece to acknowledge the needs ofworking mothers, and address the balance between taking care of theirbabies and going back to work," said Michael Belenky, co-founder ofZutano. "It's not an easy transition."
More than three-quartersof babies begin life being breast-fed, according to the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention. But by 6 months of age, the numberdeclines to less than half. By 12 months, a little more than a quarterof babies are breast-feeding.
Now that support for breast-feeding is written into federal law, Mayer said she felt this was a good time to launch Mamava.
"TheAffordable Care Act makes it a legal mandate if you have more than 50hourly employees, which is a lot of places, to provide a space otherthan a bathroom for breast-feeding, and there's legislation in the worksthat goes across all worker classes," Mayer said.
The Mamavaunit at the Burlington airport would sell for about $3,500, she said.The company is also developing "pop-up" portable units that would sellfor around $1,200 for use by companies and others who have anintermittent need.
"A school, for example, might not have abreast-feeding mom every year but when they do they can install aMamava," Mayer said of the portable units.
Mayer said hermotivation for starting the company was not so much profit as fairness.She read a New York Times article in 2006 that detailed how executivesat Starbucks were treated much differently than baristas with access toprivate space for breast-feeding on the job.
"The idea that I hadthe privilege, but a teacher, a nurse, a woman at Walmart wouldn't havethe same privilege is a social-justice issue," Mayer said. "That's whatwe're trying to solve."
Michael Jager, founder and chiefcreative officer of JDK Design where Mayer and Dodson also work, is apartner in Mamava along with G3K. He said the company is talking toStarbucks about the Mamava, along with other corporations such asMarriott hotels and even Chinese government officials.
Mamavadoes not plan to stop with the breast-feeding and pumping station, whichJager said could wind up in locations across the USA and around theworld.
"Once you solve a problem like this we can solve otherdesign problems," Jager said. "We have the right and the responsibilityto keep the movement going, and make it as clean and smart for women aspossible."