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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Would You Eat in the Bathroom?

"Ask for what you want, because it doesn't hurt to ask!"
- My Mom

Question: Why doesn't Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers?

Action: Over the weekend, I emailed the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and several airport and government officials asking them to establish designated lactation rooms for breastfeeding moms at the busiest airport in the country. I remain perplexed as to why there are designated smoking rooms in the airport yet no lactation rooms.

Currently, airport officials can provide private rooms for moms to express milk if given advance notice. Moms are also encouraged to breastfeed or pump in the family bathrooms. (If anyone has ever nursed or pumped in a public bathroom then you have probably done it sitting on the floor, toilet or standing up, all of which are unpleasant and uncomfortable.) In addition to help my mission, I created a group on Public Square Atlanta for people to help support my goal:

Under the recent health care reform act, employers are now required to provide a space (not a bathroom) for breastfeeding moms. I'm on a mission to help Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport establish lactation rooms for employees and traveling moms because it will help them stay in compliance and it’s the right thing to do. I hope you'll join this mission with me!

Eating in the bathroom is gross! 
Why should we make our kids do it?
Airport officials responded promptly to my request (in part):
First, let me say we share your concern in providing facilities for nursing mothers and appreciate your interest in ensuring Hartsfield-Jackson has nursing rooms for our customers. We absolutely support a mother’s choice to breastfeed and encourage them to continue while they are passengers in our airport.

As you can appreciate, space and resources are at a premium at the world’s busiest airport and in extremely limited supply. However, I’m pleased to tell you that we have been working closely with lactation professionals from Piedmont Hospital, the Georgia Breastfeeding Coalition and others over many months and we are well along in a project that will bring mothers’ nursing facilities to Hartsfield-Jackson in the near future.

To this end, when these facilities become fully operational, we will be happy to let you know and you can share the news with your followers. Or, you could even visit the facilities when you next fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson.

In the meantime, as we mentioned in our response to your Tweet last week, with advanced notice we are happy to make private and secure arrangements for nursing mothers. The number is (404) 209-2920.

Again, we appreciate your interest in Hartsfield-Jackson providing mothers’ nursing rooms for our passengers and we will keep you informed of our progress.

I responded (in part):
I'm glad to hear that you are working with lactation professionals from Piedmont Hospital, and the Georgia Breastfeeding Coalition. If possible, I would like to serve on the committee.

What is the timeline for establishing lactation rooms at the airport? Where is it advertised that nursing mothers can call in advance to arrange a private space to nurse or pump? Where are the private rooms located?

I look forward to your response. Again, I appreciate your time and consideration.

Response from HJAIA (in part):
Thanks for the offer but there is no committee. Usually this is not the process for public procurement and construction of airport facilities.

However, we have been working closely with outside lactation experts over the last year or two to ascertain appropriate information and are now entering the procurement phase of the project, prior to construction. We are not in a position to publicly share the timeline, nor locations, at this time.

But, rest assured, we are happy to let you know this information as soon as we are able, so that you can share it with your constituents.

I hope this helps.

Breastfeeding at Atlanta's Airport #Fail
While I appreciate the response from the busiest airport in the country that doesn't have space for lactation rooms, I would give them an F. F for Fail. I haven't responded to the last email, because my questions weren't answered. I'm going to continue to press the issue and encourage readers to sign up to help me establish lactation rooms at Atlanta's airport.

There are a couple of things that get me fired up and this is one of them. I appreciate you assisting me in providing mothers the right to have a designated, safe, comfortable and private place to express milk.
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