After months of online petitions and social media campaigns by two Philadelphia women, Amtrak has decided to add lactation pods to five of its stations over the next several months — allowing a private place for women to pump milk or breastfeed their children while traveling.
Amtrak is collaborating with Mamava, a company that creates lactation rooms and pods for work and public spaces. Rail officials unveiled the first pod in Washington, D.C., at Union Station on Wednesday and introduced another pod in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station on Friday.
One of the women who pushed for the accommodation said she sees it as an indication of a cultural shift.
“It makes a big difference in someone’s life, as a woman who might be using it,” Samantha Matlin said. “I think for a company like Amtrak to do this can also get other organizations to think about what [lactation pods] could look like.”
The call for action began in August when Lacey Kohlmoos created a petition on Care2, an activist social network, after a negative experience while traveling on Amtrak for work in 2016.
Kohlmoos, who is an online organizing strategist for Care2, couldn’t find a place to pump in Union Station before running to a meeting. Left with limited choices, she ended up pumping in a Starbucks bathroom.
“That experience made me furious,” Kohlmoos said. “I didn’t think to do anything right away because I think so many women just kind of shrug it off and say, ‘Hey, this is just one of those inconveniences you have to deal with as a working, lactating mother.’ ”
Kohlmoos teamed up with Matlin to create petitions targeting Amtrak’s Union and 30th Street Station on Care2 that garnered more than 64,000 signatures.
They sent more than 55,000 emails from the petition signers to Amtrak, and, in September, they created more than 2,500 tweets within 24 hours urging Amtrak to add the lactation rooms.
Shortly after the Twitter storm, Kohlmoos said Amtrak reached out to Mamava about getting some lactation facilities installed in their stations. Kohlmoos said pods will be installed in Chicago and Baltimore Amtrak stations by the end of the summer, and in New York City’s Union Station by the fall.
Despite their persistent contact and push for the lactation facilities, Kohlmoos said neither she nor Matlin ever heard from representatives from Amtrak.
But she’s hoping Amtrak will reach out to them at some point so they can help ensure as many mothers know about the facilities as possible. And Kohlmoos looks forward to one day seeing a Mamava lactation pod in every Amtrak station in the country.
In a statement, Beth Toll, Amtrak’s public relations manager, wrote that the company has been working on a solution for nursing mothers in its stations for several years.
“These new lactation suites demonstrate Amtrak’s ongoing commitment to better accommodate the needs of our customers and their families while traveling with us,” Toll wrote. “It is important for Amtrak to provide mothers with a secure, clean, dignified and private space.”
Although she’s no longer breastfeeding, Matlin said she was happy to be a part of something that can support mothers and inspire generations to come.
“As a working mom … struggling to [deal with day care] drop-off and illnesses, and major work meetings and all the things that many of us are balancing every day, if that one piece of it can be a little easier, that’s fantastic because it’s hard,” Matlin said. “I know that this isn’t the end of the conversation, but it feels like if I could help make the conversation easier for someone else.”
Kohlmoos plans to let Philadelphia mothers know about the 30th Street Station lactation pod. Even with this victory, though, she said the fight is far from over.
She wants to support the efforts of women like lawmaker Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office. Kohlmoos said Duckworth has been fighting to make sure that airports have lactation facilities in each of their main terminals.
“Having these facilities available wherever women travel, especially for work, especially without their children, is so important,” Kohlmoos said. “I feel like it helps women go back to work and balance their family needs as well.”
“I think this just really shows the power allies have when we work together to get some real meaningful change. Not just for ourselves, but for our communities,” she added. “It’s a victory for mothers across the country, for families across the country, so I think there’s a lot of shared excitement and a lot of pride that we were able to do this together.”