It was 2am and I was sitting on a toilet seat in an airport bathroom, crying as a noisy machine sucked breastmilk out of me. I had a three-hour layover and I was pretty sure my boobs would pop if I didn’t pump. But, the only private space (that also had an outlet) available to me was the dingy handicap stall in the public bathroom. I felt ashamed and embarrassed over the 20-minutes I was sequestered in that stall – especially when someone pushed on the door or commented on the sound of my milk sucker.
Luckily, the ingenious ladies at Mamava saw me. Well, not me specifically, but all the women like me who are forced to submit themselves to embarrassing conditions each time they need to pump in public.
Their solution? Mamava Lactation Suites, which provide private, comfortable, and sanitary spaces for lactating ladies to feed their child, or drain that milk. The use of the pods is complimentary, as they’re purchased by the facility that’s offering the pod. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the founders of Mamava, Sascha Mayer, about the rights of breastfeeding women and how the pods can help.
Bailey Gaddis: What inspired the idea for Mamava?
Sascha Mayer: I was inspired by an amendment to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act that protected working moms from having to use their breast pumps in a bathroom. [According to the Mamava website, “The law mandates that employers provide reasonable break time and a private lactation space this is not a bathroom.”] We were also continuing to see women struggling with finding clean and comfortable spaces to breastfeed when they were out of their home and I just said, “this is broken and I have to fix it.”
Bailey Gaddis: What are features of the Mamava pods that make them so conducive to pumping and breastfeeding?
Sascha Mayer: The pods were designed with our two audiences in mind – the pumping mom and the breastfeeding mom. Moms want privacy, so the pods have a locking door. We also have an app that women can use to locate and unlock the pods. Inside, it’s very much like a kitchen with a bench, good lighting, and a fold down table that’s easy to wipe down. There’s also an outlet for the pump and a USB charger, because so many moms are multi-tasking. While the pods were specifically made for pumping moms, they’re also a nice private space for moms to breastfeed.
We also wanted to make sure that the pods made it easy for facilities to do the right things and provide this space for moms. So, they’re easily placed and can be installed in 2-3 hours, can be rolled to various locations, and are low maintenance.
Bailey Gaddis: Can you tell me more about the legal rights of breastfeeding mothers?
Sascha Mayer: The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act is a mandate that states that if you’re an employer with more than 50 employees you have to provide a space that isn’t a bathroom for women to use a breast pump. Some of the more progressive states have richer legislation that protects a breastfeeding mom’s rights even further. In San Francisco, for example, businesses have to provide a lactation room.
This is so important because now, moms don’t always have to be advocating for themselves. It’s hard enough if you’re a mom that has to go back to work – it’s important to have legislation that protects your rights.
Bailey Gaddis: How do you hope the Mamava pods shift the conversation around breastfeeding?
Sascha Mayer: We hope that our Mamava pods create more of a conversation around the lines of “oh, breastfeeding happens!” We want moms to feel celebrated and supported through these pods.
I hope our units being out and about also sparks a dialogue about the choices moms have in feeding their babies. If their choice is to breastfeed, they should be supported in that. Moms should do what they feel most comfortable with. And, we don’t want women to feel like they need to pass on the option of breastfeeding because our culture doesn’t make it easy to do when they are out of their homes.
Bailey Gaddis: What advice would you give to breastfeeding mothers who work in a space without a comfortable and private space to pump, who would like to broach this subject with their employer?
Sascha Mayer: I think it’s important for women to remember that it’s in their employer’s best interest to keep them healthy and happy, rather than risking the potential of losing them and having to find a replacement. So, women should feel confident that it’s within her rights to feel comfortable talking about it and asking for what she needs. It’s also important for women to remember that they’re not alone and can find support through places like Facebook groups. Over 3 million women are breastfeeding every year – there’s a lot of support our there.
Bailey Gaddis: How do feel that millennial moms are influencing the conversation around lactation rights?
Sascha Mayer: We’ve found that millennial moms are driving the conversation around lactation rights. They’re very different from Gen X moms and are empowered by the Times Up mentality. And, millennial moms speaking up about their rights inspires facilities to purchase Mamava pods.