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Breastfeeding before you board just got easier at Miami airport

Adele Valencia and her 5-month-old daughter Lily Louise Valencia get a look at the interior of a MIAmamas nursing suite at Miami International Airport on Thursday, September 1, 2016. MIA is debuting eight nursing suites manufactured by Mamava around the airport.
Adele Valencia and her 5-month-old daughter Lily Louise Valencia get a look at the interior of a MIAmamas nursing suite at Miami International Airport on Thursday, September 1, 2016. MIA is debuting eight nursing suites manufactured by Mamava around the airport.

When first-time mom Adele Valencia traveled to Colombia from South Florida last week with 5-month-old daughter Lily Louise, it was a reminder of the embarrassment many moms often have to endure when nursing in public.

It was difficult enough to juggle luggage and an infant without the added discomfort of pulling out her unfortunately named Udder Covers blanket to breastfeed among strangers, Valencia said. Forget trying to pump milk in a crowded airport.

Now, a solution for nursing moms on-the-go is available at Miami International Airport, thanks to a partnership with Vermont-based Mamava, a startup that builds 32-square-foot portable pods with space for moms to breastfeed or pump in private.

Eight pods — two in Concourse D and one in each other concourse, were installed at MIA this week. Mamava already has pods in 13 other airports across the nation, but MIA’s order is its largest yet.

8 Number of Mamava units MIA is getting, more than any airport in the U.S.

“We are aware that traveling is difficult, especially for young moms. The thinking was, ‘What could we do to help these kinds of travelers?’” said Dickie Davis, the MIA public relations and digital marketing director who spearheaded the effort. “We came up with this idea of having these, but having them on a comprehensive basis.”

Davis said the airport focused on making the pods readily available to moms wherever they are in MIA. The units are even located on the airport’s mobile app. If necessary, they will be relocated to best reach traveling mothers, she said.

At an unveiling Thursday morning, Valencia and Lily Louise tried out the watercolor breastfeeding suites — branded as MIAmamas — inside a busy area of Concourse D. The 4-by-8 foot pods have two benches — good if you are “if you are traveling with a companion or a toddler” said Mamava CEO Sascha Mayer — a pull-down table and a plug for the breast pump. On a mirror in the pod, an affixed sticker says, “Looking good mama.”

“While I feel that all women should have the right to breastfeed anywhere, I like to have privacy. My daughter is also now at an age where she gets very distracted by everything that’s happening around her so it gets very chaotic,” said Valencia, who is the chief operations officer for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “This is just ideal because this is such a soothing, private, quiet environment that is free of distractions.”

The announcement that the suites were coming to MIA brought tears to mother of three, Dr. Anna Katerina Tischenko-Osorno, the founder of Coral Gables-based PT Wellness Center.

The impact these nursing units will have is huge.

Dr. Anna Katerina Tischenko-Osorno, mother of three and founder of Coral Gables-based PT Wellness Center

Tischenko-Osorno had a surplus of milk during her pregnancies and spent a lot of time, including while traveling for work, pumping milk to donate to a milk bank. She often got many looks of “disgust and discomfort,” she said. She couldn’t slip away to the bathroom to pump for risk of contamination and was often forced to look for plugs and use the machine, which emits a loud noise, in public.

The 6,500 ounces of milk she donated helped save the lives of babies born prematurely with digestive problems, she said. But she didn’t have anything to help make the experience more comfortable.

“The nursing units at MIA for many mothers and families will mean more than a private place for us to take care of our families’ immediate needs as you can see,” Tischenko-Osorno said in an email to the airport. “The impact these nursing units will have is huge.”

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