Sorry, Airports, Making Women Nurse On A Toilet Is Not ‘Breastfeeding-Friendly’

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woman and baby at airportWhat does ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ mean to you? If it means ‘feeding your baby in the immediate vicinity of someone else’s leftover poop particles’, congratulations: you should be very pleased with the facilities available to you at a quarter of major U.S. airports.

Someone went through and checked out the nursing situation of a hundred major U.S. airports, and the findings are spectacularly sad. Out of the 62 airports that were so bold as to pat themselves on the back for their friendliness to nursing mothers, guess how many actually offer a designated lactation room  – one without a toilet in it? Eight. Eight whole airports where you don’t have to worry about whether you’re giving your baby a fecal sample along with your breast milk. 25 airports called themselves ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ for offering mothers a unisex or family bathroom to nurse in (gross), and another 25 are content to rest on their laurels of breastfeeding friendliness without setting aside any designated nursing space at all. I guess it’s considered breastfeeding-friendly now if an airport employee doesn’t come screaming over to throw a tarp over you while you nurse in the most secluded part of the terminal you can find.

Having traveled with a nine-month-old in tow, I can assure that having access to a designated lactation room at our local airport was a thing of joy and beauty (thanks, Dane County Regional!) What was not so great was having a two-hour layover in O’Hare with a hungry, crabby infant. I did not need another reason to dislike O’Hare, but being offered the opportunity to nurse in a dingy family bathroom that might have last been cleaned during the Carter administration definitely goes on the list.

We finally ended up finding a row of unoccupied chairs in the waiting area a couple gates down from the one we were flying out of, but it still had a lot of foot traffic going by; O’Hare is juuuust ever so slightly busier than Dane County Regional, for some reason. And since traveling with a baby meant I was not in the mood to be hassled by somebody who got mad that I could ‘whip my tits out’ in public while he couldn’t walk around with his dick hanging out, I got to wrestle a baby and a blanket cover into place for twenty minutes until we were finished. In short, it sucked. And I am chronically unsurprised that I could enjoy the same experience at airports across the country, with the same ubiquity as CNN Newstands and crappy overpriced sandwich shops.

While I’m not one of the people who wants to enforce mandatory breastfeeding on everyone, I do wish there was better social support for breastfeeding women, and public lactation rooms at airports, where people are expected to arrive as much as 2-3 hours in advance of their flight, would be a huge thing. I’m not letting these wannabe ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ airports off the hook for their self-congratulatory title. I think I’ll start by writing a strongly-worded letter to the folks at O’Hare. How does this sound?

Dear Airport Administrators: A baby’s day already involves plenty of poop before other people get involved. Please consider setting up rooms designated for nursing and only nursing, unless you are cool with eating your $9 food court sandwich on the john, too.



(Image: Viktoriya Field/Shutterstock)