A few weeks ago I visited my sister in Kansas. We hadn't seen each other in about a year and a half so I was excited for the trip, but I was also feeling a bit nervous about not bringing my 6 month old along with me. I was going to be gone for 4 days and I knew I'd miss him terribly. Even more concerning to me, though, was the fact that I would need to pump frequently each day I was gone in order to keep up my milk supply for him. As I thought about the 1 hour drive to the airport, the 2 hours I wanted to allot for getting through security and to my gate on time, the almost 4 hour flight to KS, and then the 45 minutes to get to my sister's house, I could feel my stress level rising. How was I ever going to keep up with my every-3-hour pumping schedule while traveling??
Now you might be thinking, "Every 3 hours?? Isn't that a bit rigid?" Let me explain. My son was born with a few issues that made it difficult for him to latch on to either a breast or a bottle. With the help of an occupational therapist he learned how to drink from a bottle, but our efforts to breastfeed ended when he was about 6 weeks old and I have been pumping for him ever since. For a little while I was able to keep up with his needs, but when he was about 4 months old my supply started to dip. Now, at 6 months old, he is eating between 30 and 35 ounces of breastmilk a day, but I am producing barely a third of that. I pump 5 to 6 times a day for a total of 10 ounces a day, if I'm lucky. (Shout out to our milk donors!! My heroes!!) Those 10 ounces are important to me and I don't want to jeopardize the small supply I have by skipping any pumping sessions. So you can really understand the concern I had for this trip!
Turns out, I didn't have to worry at all. Orlando International Airport has Mamava Lactation Suites! These freestanding pods offer a private, clean space for nursing or pumping moms. There is one in each terminal, tucked away in a quiet hallway near the food court. I did have to ask a male airport employee where it was before I got on my departing flight, but I was pleased when he knew exactly what I was talking about and kindly directed me right to it.
It might look small from the outside, but it was actually quite roomy inside.
The door had a number lock on the handle. Can you guess what the code was? 8008 (BOOB), of course!
Their welcome message:
Hand sanitizer, paper towels, and outlets for my pump and phone charger, right next to a roomy bench:
On the other side of the pod, plenty of shelf space and another outlet:
A mirror with an encouraging message - can you see it? "Looking good, mama!" Love it!!
From the outside, I was wondering if I would feel too claustrophobic in the pod, but there was more than enough room. If I were traveling with my family, I would have been able to easily fit our bags and a stroller inside with me. (Okay, maybe not with me and all 6 of my kids, but I could definitely bring a few of the smaller ones in there!) A suggestion for Mamava, though: the pod really could have used a second bench. There was plenty of space to have one on the opposite wall and moms traveling with their kids would appreciate a place for them to sit while they passed the time.
Edited to add: Mamava saw my blog and replied, "In regards to your suggestion about adding a second bench - we totally agree!! Most of the pods do come with two benches. The Orlando pods were specially designed with one bench so that a refrigerator could be included." I was curious about why a pod in a airport would need a refrigerator. They explained, "The refrigerator is typically for employees to store their milk! This pod happens to currently be for public use, but if it ever was limited to “back of the house” use, the facilities could easily install the fridge which would make it a secure spot for mamas to store their milk." Awesome!
I visited the pods in both the terminals, one before I left for Kansas and one upon my return, and I was impressed to find them clean each time. It really put a smile on my face to have such a stress-free environment to relax in while I pumped. For me and my baby, every ounce is precious to us and skipping a pumping session could mean a quicker end to our breastfeeding journey. Being able to pump in a comfortable setting at the airport gave me great peace of mind. I am so thankful that Orlando International Airport has added these lactation suites to their terminals!
Mamava has thousands of pods all over the country. Click on the map to find out if one will be at the airport you'll be flying through next!