Airport Lactation Pods, Reviewed

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Molly Ball

I spotted this on my way through the Milwaukee airport: a lactation pod, offering “privacy for lactation or breastfeeding.” (“They really love their milk here in Wisconsin,” a friend observed.) Apparently the company, Mamava, has been putting them in airports and other public places since 2013.  There’s one at Fenway Park.

At the time I passed the pod, my carry-on was weighted down with a breast pump and several bottles of stored-up milk, so naturally I was interested. I took a peek inside—it was brightly lit, with two iPhone-white plastic benches and a mirror; about as roomy as a handicapped bathroom stall; and less claustrophobic than I expected.

It’s cool that these exist—everyone likes to be accommodated! If they were everywhere, my life would be a tiny bit easier. But I do wonder if the number of travelers pumping on the go justifies the expense and space of these pods.

Most airports have family bathrooms that are pretty well suited to this purpose but also of use to a broader set of travelers. I don’t even really mind pumping in a bathroom stall, something I’ve done dozens of times. Sure, it’s a little gross and awkward, but you know what’s really gross and awkward? Having a baby. If bathrooms gross you out, good luck with your first leaky diaper.

This seems like a classic case of startups solving the problems of the rich, quasi-rich, and obnoxious (air travelers, Red Sox fans). As the company’s founder herself has observed, the moms most desperately in need of accommodation for pumping are blue-collar working mothers, not business travelers. (Not that I want to wade into this debate, but note that that linked article repeats unfounded claims about the supposed health benefits of breastfeeding.)

The absolute worst place to have to pump, in my experience, is on a long flight. I’ve practically had the airplane-bathroom door kicked in a few times, even when I cleared it with the flight attendant beforehand. But I’m guessing the cash-strapped, space-stingy airlines will never put a comfy lactation pod where I could really use one.