“Breast is best” when it comes to feeding babies, but many moms who breastfeed are often subjected to dirty looks, disdain and outright outrage when hunger strikes in public.
While many moms, like Devon Stewart of Harlem, proudly nurse anywhere, some are not comfortable breastfeeding in public, and for them, the city recently unveiled a “lactation pod” in each of the five boroughs, which complements the more than two dozen designated lactation rooms across the city.
The pods were delivered just in time for World Breastfeeding Week, which ends today, and August being National Breastfeeding Month.
“We talked to a lot of moms about what it’s like to raise children in the city. It’s a wonderful place, but there are certain challenges for young families,” said Dr. George L. Askew, deputy commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “We found that one of the things we could do was to make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable.”
The 4-by-8 foot pods were build by Mamava and purchased for about $90,000 total, Askew said. They are bright and welcoming, with two comfortable benches, a table and an electrical outlet.
The pods are located at the Queens Hospital Center, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Bronx Zoo and Harlem Hospital Center, where Metro met Stewart and her 26-month old daughter, Greyson Stewart-Rivera.
Stewart, whose Instagram is dedicated to breastfeeding, admitted she was against the pods at first.
“I thought it was just a closet to take women out of the public eye to shut them away and, in a way, passively shaming,” she explained “But then I evolved. This facilitates mothers who are not comfortable breastfeeding in the open air. Also the practical aspect is that babies become distractible as they become more aware of their environment, which makes it difficult to nurse, so women might need a quiet space.”
Stewart said she has never had a negative interaction while breastfeeding Greyson in public, aside from not being offered a seat while nursing her daughter on a crowded subway, which she chalks up to “a general disrespect toward mothering and parenting.”
While such subway behavior may never change, the city-owned lactation pods are likely to be a permanent fixture at the five host sites, which are responsible for their upkeep. Askew said the city will visit the sites to ensure they are maintained, cleaned and refurbished as needed.
While there aren’t current plans to buy additional lactation pods, Askew is confident they’ll be a welcome addition to supporting breastfeeding in the city.
“We’ve created options so if you need the pump and electricity and greater privacy, we’ve given you a space for that,” he said. “If you have another child with you and you want a safe, secure place to bring that child while your feeding your other child, you have a space.”